There is a verdict in the trial of Dwight DeLee for the death of Lateisha Green. Green was a trans woman who died from gunshot wounds in November; DeLee was originally charged with murder in the second degree as a hate crime.
The Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund provided this description of the various potential charges in a blog post from yesterday:
Judge Walsh told the jury to consider the first charge of the indictment, murder in the second degree as a hate crime, and its lesser included offenses. He stated that the hate crime of murder in the second degree requires that an individual intends to kill a person because of a belief regarding that person’s sexual orientation, and kills that person or a third person. If the jury determines that DeLee is guilty of this charge, they must move on to consider the second charge against him. If not, they must proceed to analyze the lesser included offense of manslaughter in the first degree as a hate crime. Manslaughter in the first degree as a hate crime requires that an individual intends to cause serious physical injury to a person because of a belief regarding that person’s sexual orientation, and causes serious physical injury to that person or a third person. If the jury determines that DeLee is guilty of this crime, they must move on to consider the second charge against him. If not, they proceed to analyze the lesser included offense of manslaughter in the second degree as a hate crime. Manslaughter in the second degree as a hate crime requires that an individual act recklessly towards a person because of a belief regarding that person’s sexual orientation, and causes the death of that person or a third person.
So, it seems that the jury concluded beyond a reasonable doubt that DeLee acted with intent to cause serious bodily harm as a result of his perception regarding Teish’s sexual orientation, but not that he had intent to kill as a result of the perception.
No word yet on when the sentencing will be or what the potential sentences are.
Note: Just as the verdict came back, I was finishing up a blog post on the trial thus far. A vast majority of the post is still relevant, so I’m going to just go ahead and post it below the jump.
The trial of Dwight DeLee for the murder of Lateisha Green began on Monday July 13. Yesterday, the closing statements were delivered and the jury went to deliberation, which has been continuing this morning. You can read comprehensive recaps of the testimony and court proceedings from the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund here: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. At the bottom of each blog post, there is also an email address where people can send letters of support to Teish’s family. Due to the number of drive by hateful comments we get here at Feministe, I’m wary of actually printing that email — but I do strongly encourage you to click through to get it yourself and write a short message.
As you can see in the above linked blog posts, a major twist that we’ve seen in the trial is witnesses recanting their statements given to police which indicated that DeLee was the shooter and had hurled homophobic slurs at Teish and her brother Mark prior to shooting. The problem is that these witnesses are also close with the defendant — and authorities are now investigating suspected threats against these recanted witnesses for the prosecution. I’m not sure where this change in testimony is going to take the chance of conviction. It does look like the jury was asking for clarification specifically on the lesser potential convictions of manslaughter as a hate crime, but we won’t know whether that means anything until a verdict comes back.
One thing that I don’t see anyone talking about is the tactics of the prosecution and defense and how they play into transphobia. From what I can tell, it seems that the defense is not using the trans panic defense, but instead claiming that there is reasonable doubt that DeLee was the shooter, and also that DeLee did not know anything about Teish’s “sexual orientation.” This, of course, is a far more ethical defense tactic than “well yeah he did it, but she had it coming because she was trans.”
But it seems that both the prosecution and defense are talking not about slurs against Teish’s incorrectly perceived sexual orientation, but instead talking about those perceptions of her sexual orientation as though they were accurate. In other words, they aren’t talking about those who hurled the slurs (including more than just DeLee) as incorrectly and prejudicially seeing Teish as a gay man; they seem, from what I can deduce, to be acting as though Teish actually was a gay man, rather than a trans (and as is my understanding, straight) woman. And while I’ve been able to find precious few verbatim quotes from the prosecution, those that I have found indicate that they are referring to Teish as man, and using her former male name.
I don’t know or pretend to know the reason for this. I’d love to believe that there’s something behind this misgendering — again, on behalf of the prosecution — other than the transphobic belief that a trans woman is “really a man.” But it is my understanding that an attack based on perceived sexual orientation can still be tried as a hate crime, even when the perception was incorrect. And I know that perceived sexual orientation is what we’re actually looking at here. While it’s also possible that there are different laws in NY state requiring a person’s legal name to be used in all court proceedings — I honestly don’t know but would love comments from those who do — I know that the prosecution in the Angie Zapata trial respectfully and rightly used her correct and preferred name.
I don’t know the reason they’re doing it. I just know that it absolutely breaks my heart. It absolutely breaks my heart that during the trial seeking justice for her murder, those who are supposed to be on her side are disrespecting her, misgendering her, and essentially invalidating her identity. I don’t know the reason, but whatever it is, I find it utterly disgraceful.
- Trial for Lateisha Green’s Murder Begins Monday by Cara July 11, 2009
- Breaking: Allen Andrade Convicted of First Degree Murder by Cara April 22, 2009
- Killing a Woman Because She’s Trans “Not a Classic Hate Crime” by Cara August 4, 2008
- Trans Panic Defense Underway in Trial for Angie Zapata’s Murder by Cara April 20, 2009
- Light a Candle for Angie by Cara April 13, 2009