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Man convicted in trans woman’s killing in landmark federal hate crime trial

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A South Carolina man was declared guilty on Friday for the murder of a Black transgender woman, marking the first federal trial addressing a hate crime based on gender identity in the United States. Daqua Lameek Ritter faced charges for the 2019 killing of a woman known as “Dime Doe.”

The jury’s deliberation lasted approximately four hours, resulting in Ritter’s conviction for the hate crime, firearm usage related to the shooting, and obstruction of justice. A sentencing date for Ritter has yet to be determined, with the possibility of a maximum sentence of life imprisonment without parole looming over him.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brook Andrews, representing the District of South Carolina, addressed reporters following the verdict, emphasizing the significance of combating violence targeted at individuals due to their gender identity, sexual orientation, or any other protected characteristics. This trial underscores ongoing efforts to address such injustices within the legal system.

The conviction comes amidst a concerning rise in attacks against the LGBTQ+ community, particularly impacting transgender women of color. According to the Department of Homeland Security, these communities have long endured disproportionately high rates of violence and hate crimes. Recent data from the FBI revealed a 37% increase in reported gender identity-based hate crimes in 2022 compared to the previous year, highlighting the urgent need for legal protections and accountability.

Prior to 2009, federal hate crime laws did not encompass offenses motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity. It wasn’t until 2017 that the first conviction involving a victim targeted for their gender identity occurred, setting a precedent for cases like Ritter’s trial.

During the four-day trial, prosecutors presented evidence detailing the secret relationship between Doe and Ritter, which soured as Ritter grew increasingly agitated by the exposure of their affair in their small town. Witnesses testified to Ritter’s actions and the deteriorating nature of their relationship, leading up to Doe’s tragic death.

Despite defense arguments challenging the evidence and witness testimonies, the prosecution painted a compelling narrative of Ritter’s guilt, alleging that he resorted to violence to conceal his relationship with a transgender woman. As the trial unfolded, Ritter’s demeanor and behavior further implicated him, with witnesses recalling suspicious actions and statements made in the aftermath of Doe’s death.

As the legal proceedings continue and the community grapples with the implications of this verdict, it serves as a critical milestone in the pursuit of justice for victims of gender-based hate crimes and underscores the imperative of legal protections for marginalized communities across the nation.

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