Justice for Don Belton

remembering a writer and friend

Murder.

We received a call shortly after 11 pm tonight that the jury had reached a verdict. So we got into the car and headed down to the justice building–just as they read their decision: Guilty of Murder.

One of Don’s friends described the car ride to the courtroom as the “longest ride of their lives” and it was a bit surreal…navigating through throngs of drunken undergrads partying for “Little 500” week who were completely unaware of the other ‘big event’ here or the significance of that moment. The streets around the justice building itself were eerily calm, lit mostly by the large news trucks parked on the block.

Prosecutors stop for a picture directly after verdict was read, about 11:30 pm on 4/14/2011.


Don's friend and character witness Mara Miller speaks to reporters directly after the verdict, about 11:30 pm on 4/14.

Don's friend and a prosecution character witness Mara Miller speaks to reporters directly after the verdict.

Not too many people made it back there on such notice, but there were some. A few people in the courtroom, presumably Griffin’s family members, screamed. Minutes later, after most reporters dispersed, the jurors silently exited the justice building, escorted by security through the mostly-vacant nearby streets. As jurors passed, a few people clapped for them and shouted “Thank You.”

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12 comments on “Murder.

  1. corrie
    April 15, 2011

    I’m clapping and shouting my “Thank You” from the streets of Portland, Oregon. It’s been a horrific fifteen months, waiting for this verdict, but at least justice has at last been served.

    Thank you all for your dedication to this website and to the memory of my beloved friend, Professor Belton.

    “Hatred, which could destroy so much, never failed to destroy the man who hated.”
    -James Baldwin

    PEACE

  2. NPR listener
    April 15, 2011

    NPR is reporting that the sentencing will take place May 17th and that at a minimum Griffin will likely be in prison until he is near 50 years old (younger than Don was when he was killed).

  3. Mara Miller
    April 15, 2011

    What a relief! This final process of waiting for the jury’s verdict was agonizing. They reached the right decision.

  4. Katie Levin
    April 15, 2011

    Thank you so much for this website. I’m relieved (and even gratified) to hear that the jury reached this decision and were not swayed by what sounds like an extraordinarily sleazy prosecution.

  5. admin
    April 15, 2011

    I am assuming Katie means ”defense” rather than prosecution (above). I don’t bedgrudge the defense doing everything they could do — I would certainly want that. I think the problem is that victims themselves (and only certain victims) wind up getting smeared in the process.

  6. former writing student
    April 15, 2011

    What a relief this is for me and others who were touched by Don during our time as students. Following the write-ups throughout the trial — that was painful. Too painful. Hearing what the defense was doing to his name and memories in his absence. This verdict brings a semblance of justice, does not bring him back. We’d rather have him back in our lives.

  7. Haley
    April 15, 2011

    When I woke up this morning, the first thing I did was check to see if a verdict had been reached. When I saw “guilty of murder” I let out a huge sigh. I was unable to attend any of the trial, but I am glad the jurors took into account the real facts of the case and did not let opinionated and fuzzy testimony cloud their judgment. In response to admin, (from the secondhand reports I have heard) there was a lot of smearing going on in the trial, and not just from the defense, although I would say the defense was much sleazier with their approach. But for those of us who knew Don, we will not let 3 days of smearing ruin the legacy and friendships he left behind.

  8. Carol Graham
    April 15, 2011

    I echo the thanks for this website. This has been the only place to come for any real information through the months of waiting. I am grateful to the jury for returning the right verdict. Don Belton was a good man. He was a friend to me when he lived in Philly. His is missed.

  9. Ann Keefer
    April 15, 2011

    This is exactly the sort of news I was hoping for, and a verdict that was worth the fifteen months of waiting for it to arrive. Thank you for creating and maintaining this place. Since I live beyond local coverage of the event and the criminal trial, I don’t think I would have found out about this verdict otherwise. Justice for Don Belton: YES. And THANK YOU.

  10. Rae
    April 15, 2011

    As an avid and committed Don supporter throughout this entire ordeal, I have to second the statement that no one — or not me, and not others I know — is “happy” about the outcome: Michael Griffin, who looked like a frightened child through much of the trial, took two lives back in December, his own and Don’s. Watching someone see his future slip away, to witness that fear and what seemed to me a real and palpable regret, was terrible to behold and is terrible to recall. I have absolutely no pleasure in thinking of Michael’s wasted life. I am, however, grateful that this important precedent was set by our community. I don’t want to think about “the next guy,” but we all know that there will be one. At least we can take some comfort in the belief that the community has spoken and will not stand to let such crimes to go unpunished.

    I too look forward to a time when thinking about Don doesn’t mean thinking about the trial, but about what he meant to us and will continue to mean in the future and to many others through the continuing, unstoppable power of his words.

  11. Alyce Miller
    April 15, 2011

    Though the real goal of the law is rarely justice, but about “conclusion,” the jury’s correct-according-to-the-law verdict may still offer peace after months and months of agony to those who knew and loved Don. The prosecution did a terrific job by not allowing the defense to derail attention from the real question at issue, which was, did Michael Griffin intentionally kill Don Belton? And the answer is very clear—- yes, he did. The verdict, while a relief, won’t bring Don back, and so in the spirit of Don, I also invite his supporters to extend peace to Michael and his family.

  12. Lewis Ramsey
    May 14, 2011

    During the time that Professor Belton was murdered, I recalled that there were several other similar cases of highly respected and contributing gay men murdered. Your community’s vow to do everything in your powers to ensure “Justice For Don Belton” has brought to fruition what is all too frequently lacking in these prosecutions — justice. It is a testament to Don Belton and it is a testament to his friends, associates, and those he touched. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

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This entry was posted on April 14, 2011 by in Don Belton.
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