LGBTQ Agenda: Feds tout conviction after first-ever trial for anti-trans hate crime killing

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Tuesday March 5, 2024
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Dime Doe, a Black trans woman, was murdered in South Carolina in 2019; a jury convicted her killer last month under the federal Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Photos: Courtesy Doe's family
Dime Doe, a Black trans woman, was murdered in South Carolina in 2019; a jury convicted her killer last month under the federal Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Photos: Courtesy Doe's family

For the first time, a federal jury found a South Carolina man guilty February 23 in the hate crime homicide of a transgender woman.

Daqua Lameek Ritter, 26, was found guilty on one hate crime count, one federal firearms count and one obstruction count, which arose out of the killing of Dime Doe, 24.

"A unanimous jury has found the defendant guilty for the heinous and tragic murder of Dime Doe, a Black transgender woman," stated Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division in a news release. "The jury's verdict sends a clear message: Black trans lives matter, bias-motivated violence will not be tolerated, and perpetrators of hate crimes will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

"This case is historic; this defendant is the first to be found guilty by trial verdict for a hate crime motivated by gender identify under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act," Clarke continued. "We want the Black trans community to know that you are seen and heard, that we stand with the LGBTQI+ community, and that we will use every tool available to seek justice for victims and their families."

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2009, and added a victim's actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability to the earlier 1968 federal hate crimes statute that covers race, color, religion or national origin. Shepard was a gay Wyoming college student who was beaten to death in 1998. Byrd was a Black Texas man who was dragged to death, also in 1998.

South Carolina is one of three states without any hate crimes statute — the others being Arkansas and Wyoming.

This is the first time such a case has been brought to trial, but not the first time there's been a conviction under the federal hate crimes act. In 2017, U.S. District Judge Louis Guirola Jr. sentenced Joshua Vallum, of Mississippi, to 49 years in prison as part of a plea deal, after the gang-related killing of 17-year-old transgender teen Mercedes Williamson, the Associated Press reported.

National LGBTQ leaders were pleased with Ritter's conviction.

In a statement to the Bay Area Reporter, Kelley Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign, stated, "Dime Doe should be here with us today."

"She is one of the many Black transgender women we have lost as part of the epidemic of violence taking the lives of trans and gender-nonconforming people each year," Robinson stated. "But this historic conviction, the first time a jury issued a conviction for a gender identity motivated violent crime under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, is a major step toward justice for Dime Doe and all members of the community and the people of South Carolina. And it's an affirmation that the lives of all transgender and nonbinary people are valuable and powerful."

According to prosecutors, Ritter was upset by "rumors" about his sexual relationship with Doe, and on August 4, 2019, Ritter lured Doe to a rural area in Allendale, South Carolina, where he shot her three times in the head.

Prosecutors said that Ritter burned Doe's clothes and disposed of the firearm. The FBI's Columbia Field Office investigated the case with the assistance of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, Allendale County Sheriff's Office, and Allendale Police Department, DOJ's release stated.

"Justice has prevailed in this case," stated Special Agent in Charge Steve Jensen of the FBI Columbia Field Office. "This guilty verdict underscores the importance of upholding the rights and dignity of all individuals. This outcome will never completely erase the pain Doe's family faces, but it is our hope that it brings a measure of closure to this tragic and heinous crime."

The trial took four days. Deliberations took four hours, jury foreperson Dee Elder told the New York Post. The paper also reported that the key piece of evidence was text messages from Ritter to Doe retrieved by the FBI that showed Ritter was upset his girlfriend had found out of his relationship with Doe, and ordering Doe to hide their messages. Doe said in the messages that she felt used, the Post reported.

Ritter faces a maximum penalty of life in prison. A sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled.

"Years of collaborative work were validated by a jury's unanimous verdict: guilty," stated U.S. Attorney Adair F. Boroughs for the District of South Carolina. "This sends a message of hope to our community that we will fight for the rights of those targeted for their gender identity or sexual orientation. As Dime Doe's loved ones remember her, we hope this verdict provides them some comfort. Our office will continue to work with the FBI to increase education on federal hate crime statutes and how we can, and will, prosecute crimes motivated by bias in South Carolina."

The Matthew Shepard Foundation did not return requests for comment.

The State of California offers help for victims or witnesses to a hate crime or hate incident. This resource is supported in whole or in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.

LGBTQ Agenda is an online column that appears weekly. Got a tip on queer news? Contact John Ferrannini at [email protected]

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