Lambda Legal Urges NY High Court to Reinstate Hate Crime Conviction in Death of Transgender Woman

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October 7, 2013

Lambda Legal today filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the New York Court of Appeals urging the court to reinstate the 2009 conviction of Dwight DeLee, who was found guilty of first-degree manslaughter as a hate crime in the 2008 shooting death in Syracuse of Lateisha Green, a transgender woman.

Lambda Legal Senior Staff Attorney Thomas Ude, Jr said:

The facts in this case are not complicated: while yelling slurs about getting "faggots...out of here," Dwight DeLee pointed his rifle in the open window of the car where Lateisha Green and two others were sitting. He fired one shot, killing Lateisha and wounding her brother. The jury who convicted the defendant at trial saw this shooting clearly for what it was - a hate crime. To allow this man to walk free after his conviction on the key count of the indictment will only further complicate the already daunting task of securing convictions for anti-LGBT hate crimes.

In the 2009 trial, DeLee was convicted of first-degree manslaughter as a hate crime. The jury also found DeLee not guilty on a second count, which was described to the jury as including manslaughter "but not as a hate crime." DeLee's attorneys appealed the verdict, arguing that the two verdicts contradicted each other and that therefore the conviction should be reversed. The Appellate Division agreed and on a 4-1 decision in July reversed the conviction, and DeLee was immediately released from prison.

Lambda Legal Transgender Rights Project Director Dru Levasseur said:

The jury believed, with good reason, that they could or even had to choose between either convicting DeLee of manslaughter as a hate crime or of manslaughter but not as a hate crime. The jurors made the obvious choice that the facts supported. LGBT individuals are all too often the targets of hate crimes - particularly transgender women of color like Lateisha Green - and it is critically important that hate crime laws are used properly so that justice is served.

Organizations joining Lambda Legal on the friend-of-the-court brief filed today include: The Center on the Administration of Criminal Law at New York University's School of Law; Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF); The Anti-Defamation League; The LGBT Community Center in New York City; Empire State Pride Agenda; The Transgender Alliance of Central New York; and The New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project, Inc.

Read the brief.

Learn more about the case, People v. DeLee.

Read the press release.