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First trial underway for a federal hate crime based on gender identity

Matthew J. Perry, Jr. Courthouse in South Carolina Associated Press/Photo by James Pollard

First trial underway for a federal hate crime based on gender identity

A federal court in South Carolina on Tuesday began the trial of Daqua Lameek Ritter, who stands accused of killing a man because, prosecutors allege, the male victim self-identified as a woman. Court documents refer to the victim as “Dime Doe,” a 24-year-old found dead in a parked car in August 2019.

How is the victim’s gender alleged to have figured in the killing? Assistant U.S. attorney for the district of South Carolina Ben Garner said during opening arguments that Ritter shot the victim to death to keep their relationship a secret. Ritter’s attorneys do not dispute that Ritter had a relationship with Doe, but they maintain he did not kill him. Defense attorneys have said prosecutors only have circumstantial evidence.

Why is this the first gender identity hate crime lawsuit? Hate crime charges for gender identity have been brought before, but past defendants have settled. Ritter’s case is the first to go to trial. The federal 2009 Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act added gender identity and sexual orientation to hate crime laws. A Mississippi man in 2017 became the first person convicted under the revised statute after pleading guilty to killing someone based on gender identity.

Dig deeper: Read Steve West and Ashley Vaughan’s report in WORLD Magazine on litigation surrounding sex change surgeries.

Christina Grube

Christina Grube is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute.

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