Murder of Paul Broussard

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Paul Broussard (1964–1991), a 27-year-old Houston-area banker and Texas A&M alumnus, died after an alleged gay-bashing incident outside a Houston nightclub in the early hours of July 4, 1991. Nine high school youths, ages 15–17, and one 22-year-old were high on drugs and alcohol when they left a high school party in the suburb of The Woodlands and headed for Houston's heavily gay Montrose area in an attempt to gain admittance to dance clubs located in the vicinity.

After being refused entry to several establishments, they pulled into a parking lot where they encountered Broussard and two friends, who were also intoxicated. They then attacked Broussard and his friends. Broussard was beaten and stabbed twice with a pocket knife belonging to 17-year-old Jon Buice. Broussard died several hours later as a result of both internal injuries as well as what an expert medical examiner termed: "a delay in treatment" (In the early days of the AIDS crisis, police and medical personnel were slow to respond to calls from the Montrose area for fear of AIDS contamination.)

When Houston Gay Rights Leader Ray Hill confronted police about solving the crime, he was told that they had no intention of solving the murder. As a result, Hill (later publicly admitted hat he) fabricated the fact that that the murder was a hate crime "in order to get police to solve the murder." Gay rights advocates, frustrated about being ignored and persecuted by city officials, marched through the streets and in front of the Mayor's home for several days in what became Houston's largest and long-lasting gay rights demonstration in history. Ultimately, the boys – labeled "The Woodlands Ten" – were apprehended and plea-bargained into prison without a trial for the murder of Paul Broussard.

The Attack[edit]

Paul Broussard was walking across a parking lot just after 2:00 a.m.,[1] on July 4, 1991, in Houston's heavily gay Montrose neighborhood with his friends Cary Anderson and Richard Delaunay when the trio encountered 10 young men from The Woodlands: Jaime Aguirre, Javier Aguirre, Derrick Attard, Jon Buice, Chance Paul Dillon, Rafael Grable Gonzalez, Gayland Randle, Leandro Ramirez, Brian Spake, and Jeffrey Valentine. All but Chance Dillon attended McCullough High School in The Woodlands.

Broussard and friends were just blocks away from home when the boys asked them for directions to Heaven. The boys then reportedly exited their vehicles and attacked the men with fists, steel-toed boots, bear claws and a small pocket knife wielded by Jon Buice. While Anderson and Delaunay escaped down a busy street, Broussard was surrounded by the 10 attackers.[1]

Broussard suffered abrasions, puncture wounds, a broken rib, bruised testicles, and two stab wounds. As he lay on the ground, almost unconscious, two of his attackers rifled through his pockets and took a comb as a souvenir. The ten young men then drove off up I-45 towards The Woodlands.[2]

When EMS staff finally arrived at the scene early in the morning of July 4, they found a wounded, but still conversant Paul Broussard. As they prepared to transport Broussard to Ben Taub Medical Center, the city's trauma hospital, Broussard requested to be taken to St. Joseph Medical Center as his hospital of choice. For unknown reasons, EMS staff determined that the severity of his wounds warranted low priority transport (no lights or sirens). As a consequence, what should have been an eight-minute trip took forty minutes. It was another hour before a doctor could be located who was willing to address Broussard's wounds and he later died of internal injuries. His mother, Nancy Rodriguez, flew into Houston from Atlanta, Georgia, and met with Houston police as well as with Anderson and Delaunay.

Protests[edit]

Houston Gay Rights Advocate Ray Hill went to the Houston Police to find out the progress in the case. Once he learned that police had no intention of pursuing the gay murder, he met with television and newspaper outlets while helping to organize the largest gay rights protests in Houston's history. Queer Nation Houston helped organize the large public protests, some of which took place in front of the mayor's house, with Nancy Rodriguez participating. The resulting media attention led to one of the assailants' girlfriends calling the police.

Arrests and Sentencing[edit]

Derrick Attard went to New York after the attack, and was arrested there. Jon Buice is reported to have turned himself in after being encouraged to do so by his father.[3] All ten were soon arrested and signed confessions without attorneys present.[2] Attard received probation for agreeing to testify against the other nine.

Activist Ray Hill lobbied the prosecutor and District attorney for "meaningful sentences" for The Woodlands 10.[3] All ten of Broussard's assailants were eventually plea-bargained without the case going to trial.

Four more of the boys received probation, and Nancy Rodriguez – aided by the Houston Crime Victim's Office – worked with the D.A. to set the terms. The court also ordered them to pay for Anderson's hospital bill and Broussard's funeral. Derrick Attard and Gayland Randle violated the terms of their probations and were sent to prison.

Jon Buice, who inflicted the stab wounds, received a 45-year sentence. Paul Dillon received a 20-year sentence for attempted murder and aggravated attempted murder.

The three remaining assailants received sentences of 15-years-and-one-day for their admitted participation in the beatings. Their sentences were criticized by Queer Nation and Nancy Rodriguez as being too light.

Prison, Parole and Release[edit]

Paul Dillon was the first of the attackers to be released, in March 2000, after serving just six years. He owed his freedom to a mandatory release law that was repealed in 1996.[4]

Derrick Attard, Rafael Gonzalez, Gayland Randle, Brian Spake, and Jeffrey Valentine also received probation and were released.

Jon Buice, who received longest sentence and is the last of The Woodlands Ten, was denied parole in October 2003, October 2005, and October 2007. He was granted parole in July 2011, however, that parole was revoked for reasons that were not disclosed to him and his family. Buice's parole was denied again on October 21, 2014. Buice was ultimately granted parole in November 2015 and released to the custody of his father on December 30 under strict and intensive supervision.

Nancy Rodriguez currently lives near Macon, Georgia and has attended more than 20 parole hearings in her efforts to keep her son's assailants in prison.

Documentary Film: "The Guy With The Knife"[edit]

In 2006, while visiting Houston to reporting on a story about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Canadian Filmmaker Alison Armstrong heard about an "unusual friendship" between a gay rights advocate (Ray Hill) and the man he had helped send to prison (Jon Buice). She learned that after meeting with Buice and others convicted of the murder, Hill became convinced that "The Woodlands Ten" were not homophobic and had not been gay-bashing the night of Paul Broussard's murder. Hill reported that he began to regret fabricating the false motive after meeting and corresponding with Buice and other members of 'The Woodlands Ten.' Hill began encouraging Buice to pursue his education and working toward helping him win release on parole. "I lied to get media attention to get Houston police to solve a gay murder. It was wrong, but it worked," he told Armstrong. "Now I'm doing what I have to do on behalf of Jon Buice."

Alison Armstrong became intrigued with not only the unusual friendship between the two men, but also the role the media had played in all aspects of the case. Ultimately, she came to believe that the larger issue of a criminal justice system that would plea-bargain 9 minors into the adult prison system without the case ever going to trial, should also be an element covered by the film. However, much more came to light as the project unfolded. "The Guy With The Knife" uncovers a pattern of delay in responding to the gay community in Montrose by Houston first responders (EMS and police). Houston Gay Rights Advocate Maria Gonzalez recounts unfortunate advice that was repeated in Montrose during those years: "If you get hurt in Montrose, get in your car and drive some place else – and then call 911." In another scene, expert medical examiner Dr. Alan Taylor amends the cause of death to include "a delay in treatment. Paul Broussard was on a slow boat to China," he declares. Other revelations include questionable practices by the Texas Prison System and an unusually closed Parole process that may violate civil rights by withholding key information from the accused.

The documentary received numerous accolades from several LGBT film festivals across the nation. In early November 2015, the film was publicly screened at the LBJ School of Public Affairs in partnership with University of Texas Law School, the Harvey Milk Society, The Center for Health and Social Policy, and The William Wayne Justice Center for Public Interest Law. It was followed by a panel discussion including Houston Gay Rights Advocate, Maria Gonzalez; Texas Southern University Journalism Professor Michael Berryhill; LBJ School Criminal Justice Policy Professor Michelle Deitch; and, Filmmaker, Alison Armstrong.

The film begins when Jon Buice is 17 years old and concludes with his release on parole into his father's custody on December 30, 2015.[citation needed]

Jon Buice[edit]

In April 1999, Buice wrote an open letter to the gay community apologizing and seeking to make amends for his role in Paul Broussard's murder, which was addressed to the radio station KPFT and printed in the Houston Voice.[5] Buice says he was moved to write the letter after hearing about the murder of Matthew Shepard.[1]

In a subsequent interview with a researcher, Buice said that he was not homophobic and had close friends and relatives who were gay. Buice also said that the attack had less to do with Broussard's sexual orientation than with thrill-seeking, male-bonding, peer pressure, and the influence of drugs and alcohol. Almost all of The Woodlands 10 were intoxicated that night. Some, including Jon Buice, had also used marijuana and taken LSD.[2]

According to prison officials, Buice has a spotless prison record. He has earned associate's degrees in business and accounting and a bachelor's degree in psychology.[6]

Buice was denied his parole requests in 2007 and 2009. He was scheduled to be released on parole around October 2011,[7] but after protests from the victim's mother as well as other gay activists, the Parole Board reversed its decision and denied Jon Buice parole.[8] Buice's parole was reviewed in August 2012.[9] Buice's parole was denied again on October 21, 2014, but was ultimately granted parole and released on December 30, 2015 into the custody of his father, Jim Buice, under strict supervision.

Buice's attempts at parole were supported by gay activist and radio host Ray Hill who is also an ex-convict and host of "The Prison Show" on KPFT. Others also speaking on behalf of parole for Jon Buice include: [the late] Houston Chronicle Crime Reporter Susan Bardwell; Texas Southern University Journalism Professor Michael Berryhill; and former Houston LGBT Political Caucus President, Maria Gonzalez.

The documentary film "The Guy With a Knife" by Alison Armstrong deftly explores the complexities the case.[10]

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