WASHINGTON – The landmark Lawrence v. Texas Supreme Court ruling that effectively overturned anti-sodomy laws throughout the country was based on a pre-arranged “setup” of police, state judicial authorities and, ultimately, the highest court in the land, says the first Texas criminal courts judge to whom the case was assigned.
Judge Janice Law, author of “Sex Appealed: Was the U.S. Supreme Court Fooled?” said “reverse entrapment” was a good term to describe the technique used by defendants to secure an arrest while committing homosexual sodomy in the “privacy” of their bedroom.
The Lawrence case began Sept. 17, 1998, when Houston sheriff’s deputies got a call reporting shots being fired at an apartment complex. Deputies converged on the scene and were directed to the apartment of John Geddes Lawrence by Robert Eubanks, a petty criminal himself and a friend of Lawrence. Upon entering the unlocked apartment with guns drawn, the deputies were met by a man calmly talking on a kitchen telephone.
When asked if anyone else was in the apartment, this unidentified witness signaled to the back bedroom. Once again, the bedroom door was open. And upon entering, clearly in the call of duty, the officers were confronted with two men engaged in homosexual sodomy – Lawrence and Tyron Garner.
Oddly, they did not stop when deputies entered the bedroom. According to Deputy Joseph Richard Quinn, the first officer on the scene, the two defendants had to be physically separated.
Tyron Garner and John Geddes Lawrence
Despite the fact that officers were called to the scene of the crime by another homosexual lover of both Lawrence and Garner, ushered to their apartment by falsely insisting someone was firing a gun, found an unlocked door to the apartment, announced their presence in the apartment loudly, were directed to the bedroom by another unknown visitor in the kitchen and were deeply disturbed by finding the pair having sex, the Supreme Court ruled that the privacy rights of Lawrence and Garner were violated by police that night.
Many news accounts of the case suggested it was a neighbor who filed the false police report that night – one who had been harassing the pair. Indeed, it was the pair’s close friend and lover.
And it was that close friend and lover who was brutally beaten to death two years later – and three years before the case reached the Supreme Court. No one was ever charged with the crime. Eubanks’ body was found in Garner’s house. Garner made it clear that if he was called to testify about the death he would invoke his Fifth Amendment rights.
Not one of the thousands of national news stories written about the Lawrence case ever mentioned the murder of Eubanks – the key witness and the man who spent two weeks in jail for filing the false police report that led to the arrest of Lawrence and Garner.
Law says that when she began researching the case, about six months after the Supreme Court ruling, she just had a feeling that Eubanks had been murdered.
“Until I saw the photograph of Robert Royce Eubanks, I had difficulty writing ‘Sex Appealed,'” she said. “I don’t know, consciously, why that was.”
When she saw his police booking mug, it all began to come together.
“Eubanks had that smirky attitude rooted in a basic self-eroded intelligence,” she wrote. “Street-smart, loud, boastful, an adventuresome con, probably a talker. Deputy Quinn said Eubanks talked non-stop in the back of the patrol car on Sept. 17, 1998. Someone who never shut up. A blabber with inside knowledge. A drunk who had nothing to lose.”
She recalls, “After I saw Eubanks’ photo, whatever feelings blocked my writing, lifted.”
In fact, Law hopes that her book may prompt a reopening of the Eubanks investigation. Because there is no statute of limitations on murder, the case is officially still open. But it is not active.
“You can’t reopen a Supreme Court case,” she says. “But you can reopen a murder investigation. And this one was botched pretty badly.”
Law says that was the most shocking part of her research.
“What shocked me most was the poor quality of the investigation into the homicide of Robert Royce Eubanks, the witness who was beaten to death in October 2000 as the sodomy case pended a crucial ruling from a mid-level appeal court. My investigator, the retired head of investigations for the Harris County DA’s office said the police really dropped the ball.”
This was the stuff that was to lead to a Supreme Court ruling as sweeping in nature as Brown v. Board of Education or Roe v. Wade. A false police report called in by one of three homosexual lovers that leads directly to police discovering the other two in flagrante delicto. Then one is murdered, leaving two to make history.
And the Lawrence case has made history.
It was Justice Antonin Scalia, in his dissent in the case, who explained that Lawrence would inevitably lead to arguments in favor of legalizing incest, same-sex marriage, homosexual adoption, polygamy and other taboos. Those notions seemed preposterous to some in 2003. By 2004, many had gone mainstream.
The 6-3 U.S. Supreme Court Lawrence ruling favoring the defendants in the landmark case is the trigger event kicking away roadblocks to same-sex marriage, says Law.
The justices who voted to overturn the Texas statute and invalidate anti-sodomy laws in the rest of the U.S. were Justices Stephen Breyer, Sandra Day O’Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anthony Kennedy, David Souter and John Paul Stevens. Justice Kennedy wrote the majority decision.
Those voting to uphold the Texas law were Scalia, Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Clarence Thomas.