Scott Johnson: Gay US student’s murderer was imprisoned for manslaughter in 1988
A second prison sentence has been imposed on an Australian man who admitted killing US mathematician Scott Johnson 35 years ago.
Last year, Scott White was found guilty of killing Dr. Johnson, but he was then overturned on appeal and later pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
Dr. Johnson’s body was discovered in 1988 in Sydney at the foot of cliffs after a wave of attacks against gay men.
Although the cause of death was first given as suicide, his family for a long time believed it was a hate crime.
In New South Wales (NSW), where homosexuality had only recently been decriminalized, violence against LGBT individuals was widespread but infrequently investigated. The family of Dr. Johnson campaigned for years to have the authorities thoroughly investigate the incident.
White, who was 18 at the time of the murder but is now 52, acknowledged to punching Dr. Johnson, 27, during a fight at Manly’s North Head, which caused him to fall to his death.
He was given a nine-year prison sentence on Thursday by the NSW Supreme Court, with six years of that time spent behind bars and without the possibility of release for good behavior.
Justice Robert Beech-Jones stated, “He had everything to live for,” pointing out that the man had a loving family and was soon to obtain his PhD.
But the judge decided that he could not be convinced that the killing was a gay hate crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
The sentencing, according to Dr. Johnson’s brother Steve, who was speaking outside the court, has finally allowed his family to find peace and closure.
“[It] signals the end of this… We’re one of the fortunate families to have a murderer in jail, he remarked.
In 2018, he claimed to the BBC that “no investigation whatsoever” had been conducted at the time.
In January 2022, White shocked his defense team by saying “I am guilty” during a pretrial hearing. He was promptly granted a 12-year jail sentence.
He insisted, however, that he did not plan to murder Dr. Johnson, and his legal team was successful in arguing that the plea was made while he was “confused” and “stressed”. Consequently, the first conviction was overturned.
Killing of a gay US student conviction overturned
The police already apologized to the family of Dr. Johnson for not conducting a thorough investigation into the matter in the 1980s and for failing to safeguard the LGBT community.
Up to 80 gay males are thought to have been killed in Sydney during that time, many of whom were thrown from cliffs.
According to his brother Steve, who has fought for the truth, “It was incomprehensible to me that Scott went somewhere and jumped off a cliff.”