Lateisha Green’s Killer Dwight DeLee Convicted of Manslaughter as a Hate Crime

justice for teishThere 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.

Just minutes ago, the verdict came back and was announced on Twitter (the AP also has a blurb).  A jury convicted Dwight DeLee of manslaughter in the first 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.


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30 Responses to Lateisha Green’s Killer Dwight DeLee Convicted of Manslaughter as a Hate Crime

  1. Transpeople were cut out of the NY hate crimes statute before it passed by gay peeps (thanks Matt Foreman and ESPA) so the only way they could even pursue hate crimes charges was prosecute it on the perceived sexual orientation basis.

    Tesih name still hadn’t been changed yet so they used the old name as well.

    • Cara says:

      Right, Monica, I get that. But again, proving hate crime charges on a perceived sexual orientation basis is not the same as proving the charges on an actual sexual orientation basis. It’s only the latter for which I see need to refer to Teish incorrectly.

      Followingthru, did you refer to Teish as “it” (“arguing about whether it was a man or a woman”)? What the flying fuck?

  2. followingthru says:

    I’m offering a possible explanation for the behavior of the prosecutors, I am not defending it, I am just guessing at why they referred to her as a man. Part of me thinks that looking at the case from the stand point of a lawyer preparing for trial, rather than from the viewpoint of a feminist will help to ease the disappointment we might feel about the prosecutor’s statements.

    I certainly don’t know the prosecutors in this case, but I am an attorney and I have worked on jury trials. When preparing a case for a jury trial, the lawyers are preparing to convice a jury of 12 community members, of differing backgrounds, education levels, and idealogies that their version of the case is the correct one. When you begin learing to try cases, one of the things you learn is to keep it as simple as possible, and not to distract the jury with issues other than the question they have to answer. I’m guessing that the prosecutors had a difficult time deciding how to refer to Lateisha, and if I were pressed to explain why they chose to do what they did, I would guess that they thought it would be less likely to confuse or stir up side debates within the jury. You don’t want jurors arguing about whether it was a man or a woman, when they should be deciding whether or not the defendant is guilty.

    I would also assume that they would use whatever her legal name was during the case, for the purpose of proving the identity of the victim, but again, these are facts that I do not know. Part of keeping things simple at trial is using the same “label” every time you refer to the victim, the defendant, witnesses, etc.

    The prosecutor’s job at trial is to prove the allegations made against the defendant. I imagine they made a strategic decision about how best to prove the allegations.

  3. followingthru says:

    Additionally, I would really hope that they discussed their strategies with the family first.

  4. Amanda in the South Bay says:

    I’d like to hear from someone with the SRLP on this, since as I remember don’t they oppose broadening the definition of hate crimes to include gender identity? Granted, that is obviously not what happened here. It seems like the prosecution mis-gendered her in order to get the sexual orientation hate crime charge to stick.

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  6. eastsidekate says:

    Here are my observations. I need to run, and also to take a break from this (this has been a tough week for a lot of us here in Syracuse).

    However, yes, absolutely, there are a lot of things about this trial that I found deeply troubling, especially the profound disrespect that the legal system showed to Lateisha Green’s identity. It is heartbreaking, and this garbage needs to stop NOW.

  7. eastsidekate says:

    Also, I believe News10Now in Syracuse reported sentencing will be August 18. I don’t have time to find/post the link.

  8. Jadey says:

    Followingthru, you have just described a number of problems with how law school teaches people to be lawyers, which happen to resemble a lot of problems with how medical school teaches people to be doctors, teachers college teaches people to be teachers, and so on. “Keeping it simple”, i.e., not challenging assumptions about the status quo and perpetuating the damage. Lawyers can be feminists too (as well as trans* or trans allies).

    Personally, I’m not interested in explanations for the behaviour. The explanations are pretty much clear — the system is screwed up and that’s what it does — my disappointment and anger remain. What I care about is that even when a woman is murdered in hate because of her identity, even the people representing her at trial cannot figure out a way to respect that identity. The prosecutors in Angie Zapata’s trial did so with no ill effects, why not these lawyers? I am not on with assuming the members of juries are just thick and can’t learn the difference between “perceived” and “actual”.

  9. Holly says:

    I think the “perceived sexual orientation” and “actual sexual orientation” are the same thing in New York law — it’s not as if it’s two different charges. If you look at TLDEF’s intern’s account of the trial, the judge is instructing the jury on the hate crimes statute and says that it depends on whether the accused has “a belief about sexual orientation.” In any case, since gender identity has no basis in hate crime law in New York (and hopefully won’t, if you ask me) they’re just relying on sexual orientation. Actually — another factor that might be relevant here is that the defense is claiming that Teish was not wearing “feminine” clothes at the time of the shooting, something which doesn’t seem to have been countered by the prosecution. If that’s the case, it may be that the prosecution feels they did not have as much to stand on when it came to “perception of sexual orientation.”

    I’m glad her murderer is being put away — as usual, I am not happy to see using hate crimes as an enhanced-incarceration weapon, but at least in the case, it seems to have been done on behalf of the oppressed instead of the other way around.

  10. human says:

    Huh.

    If you wanted to cause serious bodily harm, but not kill someone, wouldn’t you, I don’t know, beat them with a baseball bat or something, rather than shooting them?

    Though, to generalize inappropriately from my own experience with jury duty, juries can be kind of dumb.

  11. eastsidekate says:

    I’m not sure whether the re-gendering occurred because of the hate crimes defense, or (as I suspect) because the DA’s office and the Syracuse police have a f’d up, cissexualist opinion about gender. In any case, as Holly says, the law doesn’t distinguish between actual and perceived gender identity, and it’s clear that the defendant viewed all three passengers in the car as homosexual men– regardless of their actual identities.

  12. followingthru says:

    I apologize for the use of the word “it.” That is not the way the sentence was supposed to read. I obviously did not proof-read my post very well. I did not intend to refer to Lateisha as “it,” and I sincerely and whole-heartedly apologize to anyone who was offended by my mistake.

    And once again, I was not defending the prosecution’s choices, or the legal system in general, but offering an explanation about why they might have made those choices. I agree that lawyers can be feminists, trans, and trans-allies. I consider myself to be two of those things, and I try each day to be better at each. I only offered the explanation because many people may not be familiar with criminal jury trials. Anyone who is not interested in it may feel free to disregard it.

  13. eastsidekate says:

    @Holly / SRLP types:
    Someone from the Pride Agenda approached me outside the courthouse on Monday, gathering support for GENDA. I asked her about whether GENDA included a hate crimes provision, and she told me that GENDA would establish “gender identity” as a protected category, from which hate crimes “protection” would automatically follow. I’m not saying I don’t trust ESPA when it comes to trans issues, but… Wait, that’s exactly what I’m saying.

    Can someone give me/point me to a discussion of why, (legislatively/politically) NYS GENDA includes hate crimes protections? I had been under the impression that this was the case because certain LGBT groups had been lobbying specifically for a legislation that included a hate crimes provision.

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  15. Syracuse315 says:

    I have been at the trial all week. The prosecution use the name Moses Cannon for two reasons: 1) The family uses the name Moses, masculine pronouns, and calls Teish their son. This is out of respect for the family. 2) All the police reports identify the victim as Moses Cannon. I am an activist for the LGBT community, but I think some activists need to take a step back and realize that perhaps Teish wasn’t always Teish and didn’t care to be called Moses. It may offend LGBT activists more than it may have offended Teish or her family. The family will use their own language to define their situation and define their child. They knew Teish, they raised Teish. We didn’t. It’s about respect and the family’s preference.

  16. Sue says:

    At least the UK newspaper I read (using an AP report) used the correct gender, and transgender as an adjective. Don’t understand the “frequently dressed in women’s clothing but was wearing jeans and a T-shirt the night she was killed.”, as I look down to what I’m wearing at the moment…I just don’t understand the relevance in the action by the accused.

    I also have a very great European scepticism towards the carrying of guns. As someone has pointed out, if you just want to harm someone you can do an awful lot of damage in other ways: with fists, boots, a cricket bat or swinging some ice-hockey blades around.

    Can anyone explain to me the increase in sentence involved in a hate crime, as opposed to a “simple” murder. I think I’d just be happy with any decent guilty verdict and subsequent sentence.

  17. Pony says:

    Followingthru: You meant “whether it was a man or a woman who was killed” right? That’s how the statement read to me.

    Also, I’m of the opinion that hate crime legislation is also thought crime legislation, punishing people for their internal mental states. If what they are doing is bad enough to warrant prosecution, then their opinion of the victim shouldn’t come into it.

  18. eastsidekate says:

    @Syracuse315
    1. Teish wasn’t there to speak, so you’re right, we can’t have her verify what she minds and doesn’t mind being called.

    2. Teish had a wonderfully supportive family. That said, as a trans person, while I think that family has the right to view their child however they want, every person has the right to self determination. A lot of trans youth get thrown out of their homes by families that disrespect their identities. If Teish were so unlucky, would you still give the family ownership of her identity?

    3. Also, the family traumatized by hearing her referred to as Teish in court? Are you serious? Why was she Lateisha outside of the courtroom, in the environments where the family had a choice? BTW, you’re seriously worried about traumatizing the family by using female pronouns? Are you serious? Did you hear any of the testimony? I can’t imagine anything more traumatic?

    4. I was there all week, too. At the celebration of Teish’s life, I only heard feminine names and pronouns used to describe Teish. Throughout the ordeal, I heard her parents refer to her different ways at different times– sometimes using Teish, sometimes her birth name. I never heard Rhonda Gary, Teish’s aunt refer to her as anything other that Teish, a woman.

    I’m going to assume you’re not trans, and you’re not aware of how hard cissexual society works to undercut our identities. I mean using “Teish wasn’t always Teish” and the police reports as an excuse for erasing her identity? I’ve heard the similar arguments made with respect to my identity, and they hurt, they hurt badly. And yes, it was erasure– I couldn’t have imagined a starker difference between what I heard in the courtroom and what I heard from family and friends outside the courtroom.

    Thanks for representing the LGB community in Syracuse. Speaking for nobody but myself, I’d rather you stop claiming to advocate on behalf of those of us who are trans.

  19. gina says:

    @Syracuse315:
    The family was in the process of coming to grips with Teish’s transition. Some people only referred to her as Teish. Roxanne and one of her aunts sometimes switched between calling her Moses and Teish. As many transpeople can tell you, family doesn’t all get on board a transition right away (and for many, never), even when people are mostly supportive. Some earnest family members will occasionally call you by your old name/pronoun when you least expect it. In some parts of the African-American community, trans people identify themselves as ‘gay’. Which doesn’t mean those people (or their families) don’t know the difference between someone like Teish and someone who just has same-sex orientation but presents mostly straight. I strongly disagree the family has a right to determine what a transperson is called after their passing. Would you want your family telling people you were straight after you died?

    Nor do I even vaguely think that had anything to do with what the prosecutor called her in this case. It was strictly legalese… this was “his” legal name, that’s what we’ll call “him.” Onondaga County is a rather conservative area. Btw, if you were at the trial, did you notice how Mark repeatedly corrected the attorneys as to her name, called her Teish and even “my sister”?

  20. Syracuse315 says:

    @eastsidekate: I did not use the word “traumatizing” nor did I think that it was traumatizing. I believe I used the word respect. When news articles first broke in the Post-Standard, the family used Moses Cannon. This is what the local media here used because that is what they had to work with.

    I think it’s interesting that you would try to silence me as a trans advocate or even try to have a respectful discussion with me about my comment or what I witnessed at the trial. Rather than having a healthy discussion, you would silence someone who is helping this family.

  21. Cara says:

    Syracuse315 — a person telling you how your words have been hurtful and damaging to them is not “silencing,” and so we are not going down that road.

  22. eastsidekate says:

    Fair enough.. I noticed after my posting that you’re right, you said the use of Teish’s birth name was out of respect for the family. I apologize for that, and admit to being fairly angry when I wrote. I was inserting my interpretation that I didn’t see how respecting Teish’s identity during the trial could possibly be harder on the family than having to relive the night of Teish’s death throughout the week.

    Also, the initial media reports did use the Lateisha’s birth name, and I’m assuming that the family’s initial statements (along with police reports) had something to do with this. However, that was nearly 9 months ago, and the public statement’s I’ve seen coming from the family recently haven’t tended to use Teish’s birth name. Even if you accept the premise that the family owns Teish’s identity (see gina’s comment above), I see ample reason to think that the media could have changed. For instance, I noticed that the CBS/NBC affiliates’ coverage was largely respectful, whereas the Post-Standard and News10Now’s remained pretty awful throughout the trial. Clearly, the media had enough material, time and education available to be respectful if it so chose.

    That said, while I regret the tone of my comment, I don’t regret the content. Perhaps we could have a respectful and healthy discussion. However, as far as I can tell, you seem to be premising that discussion on the idea that because you’re an LGBT advocate who was at the trial, your opinion holds some extra weight. We both witnessed the trial, and we both advocate on behalf of the LGBT community. My point was given that you seem so ready to dismiss Teish’s identity on the basis of what others may have thought of her (including the bureaucracy), you’re probably missing talking for trans people, rather than listening to them. I’m not sure that this means that I’m “erasing” you as a trans advocate. Rather, it means I’m doubting whether you have the perspective to be an effective advocate for trans and gender non-conforming people.

  23. little egg says:

    @eastsidekate — GENDA in NY state includes hate crimes protections because that’s how the act is written. The individuals who wrote it wanted to add ‘gender identity’ as a category throughout NY state law, wherever the other protected categories exist. It doesn’t have to be that way; GENDA could be changed to not include hate crimes protections, and to only be an act that protects trans people under anti-discrimination law, which is what those of us who don’t believe in enhanced hate crimes penalties would like.

    It seems that for much of the life of the bill, like up until summer 2008, many people involved in organizing to pass GENDA didn’t even realize that language was in the bill because it hadn’t been publicized. Several groups in the GENDA Coalition attempted to initiate a discussion about the possible removal of the hate crimes language from GENDA– you can read about how that process went down here: http://srlp.org/node/301

  24. gina says:

    @315: FYI, Sylvia Guerrero, Gwen Araujo’s mom, only called her by her birth name and referred to her as ‘her son’ before and during the first trial. She later called her Gwen, my daughter and petitioned to have her child’s name changed to Gwen after the second trial. It’s a process. FYI, the Post-Standard, especially writer Jim O’Hara, who wrote most of their stories about the trial, really only wrote about Moses Cannon and pretty much mentioned how Teish “sometimes dressed in women’s clothes (sic) and referred to herself as Lateisha.” Yes, Roxanne Green did mention she had two gay sons… as I stated in my earlier post (and you didn’t address) some segments of the black community tend to use gay when referring to trans people, but they still certainly know the difference between gender variant people and people who are gay by virtue of their sexual orientation. I see no sign the DA did anything during the trial with the family in mind. Long after the family only referred to her as Lateisha and as a daughter/sister, the DA in his closing arguments said, “make no mistake, Moses Cannon WAS a gay man.”

    I believe part of this might have also had to do with the sophistication level (?) of the jury… some of whom might not have known the difference between gay and trans, sexual orientation and gender. It’s doubtful people who were in any way trans aware (or who had a trans person in their lives) would have even be permitted to serve on the jury by the defense attorney.

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  26. Just Some Trans Guy says:

    “The family will use their own language to define their situation and define their child. They knew Teish, they raised Teish. We didn’t. It’s about respect and the family’s preference.”

    @ Syracuse
    I’d like to echo some of eastsidekate’s comments on this. If I, gods forbid, were to be murdered tomorrow, I have no doubt that my family would refer to me using the wrong name and the wrong pronouns. They would say that they had lost a daughter, not a son. I’m not thrilled that they refer to me in this way, but they’re my family, and I love them. We all make our compromises.

    But even if it would hurt or embarass them to see and hear me referred to as a man, to hear my correct name used in news articles, I would still want those articles to use the correct name and correct pronouns. Because I love my family, yes, but that doesn’t trump my sense of self and my identity. Respect for my family doesn’t trump respect for me.

    I don’t know what Lateishs Green would have wanted, and in no way will I speak for her. But I did want to offer my perspective.

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  28. g531 says:

    The increase in hate crimes over the recent years, has been appalling and calls for the necessity of the bill recently passed in the Senate to receive greater attention and support. Hate crime assaults that had taken place in Eastern Washington in October had, in fact, prompted support for WA hate crime legislation. It is not enough, however, that states have different guidelines regarding the issues, especially when the tendency is that states with less strict laws may in fact suffer greater occurrences.

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