Saturday, March 14, 2009

Cuadra Found Guilty of Murder - But Was Justice Done?

Last week former Virginia Beach escort and porn star/producer Harlow Cuadra was found guilty of first degree homicide in the murder of rival porn producer Brian Kosis. Although there has not been a much local media coverage of the trial - even though he and his partner according to court testimony made over $500,000 a year running a male escort service in generally conservative, Republican dominated Virginia Beach (with a client base that according to locals included high military brass and Washington, D.C., political players) - I have followed the murder trial of Harlow Cuadra online, partly because of the local connection and partly because I question whether or not an openly gay individual can receive justice in the courts. Especially in rural/conservative areas like Wiles-Barre, Pennsylvania, which is hardly a progressive area of the country. My own experience with the courts here in Virginia where judges allow gay bashing to take place during hearings (even though it is forbidden under the Canons of Judicial Conduct) and allow their own religious bigotry to trump their duty to be an unbiased tribunal unfortunately suggests that being gay and being before a judge and/or a jury puts one in an uphill battle posture at best.
For the record, I never knew Harlow beyond seeing him dance once or twice as a male dancer in a gay club a number of years back. I'm not even certain if I spoke with him at the time or not. Of those few people I know that knew him, the consensus seems that he wasn't the type to commit this type of brutal crime. The verdict of these same people on his partner, Joseph Kerekes , however, was quite different. They seemed unanimously convinced that Kerekes was all too capable of such violence. At his trial, Cuadra blamed Kerekes for killing Kocis. He said he was inside Kocis' residence talking to him when a jealous Kerekes stormed inside and slashed Kocis' throat with a knife. Kerekes pleaded guilty to second degree murder last December, thus admitting he was involved in the murder if not in fact the actual murderer.
Suffice it to say we will probably never know the real truth of precisely what went on the night Kocis died and whether Harlow told the truth about Kerekes killing Kocis. Meanwhile, based on the homophobia and improper judicial conduct I have seen first hand in the Virginia courts will leave me with the nagging doubt that just maybe Harlow was innocent of first degree murder and that the jury instead based its verdict based on his sexual orientation.
I look forward to the day when one's sexual orientation will be irrelevant to one's fate in a court of law. That day has yet to arrive in Virginia or I suspect in conservative areas of Pennsylvania.

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