Arizona Gay Murder Trial To Begin 12, 2005
By Greg Jonsson

Tucson, Arizona -- The trial of a self-styled White Supremist charged in the killing of a gay man is set to begin today in Tucson.

On June 12, 2002 Philip Walsted, 24, was robbed and murdered in downtown Tucson, Arizona. Walsted, an openly gay man, had been beaten with a baseball bat in what was months later determined to be a hate crime.

David Higdon, arrested and charged with first degree murder has been incarcerated for over two years. In that time, he has been charged along with other inmates of criminal conspiracy to take over the jail in a white supremacist plot. This past June, Higden pled guilty to aggravated assault against another inmate and was sentenced to 2 years in prison.

Jury selection will begin this morning in the murder trial, a case that has been filled with delays.

Higdon rejected a plea offer to second degree murder in September. This plea carried a flat 22-year sentence. The judge carefully questioned Higdon as to his understanding of his decision. If found guilty of first degree murder in a trial he would receive either a life sentence (minimum 25 years) or natural life.

Even if found guilty of manslaughter he would face between 16 and 35 years behind bars.

Higdon also has the criminal syndicate conspiracy case pending. In the plea offer those charges would have been dropped. Now, that case continues. If convicted of one or more counts against him in that indictment he would face from 10 to 35 years on each count.

TJ Leyden, a former Neo-Nazi skinhead, who now speaks about confronting issues such as racism, anti-Semitism and hate crimes through education, community involvement and social action, will be called as an expert witness on Skinheads the prosecution said.

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