by Guest Contributor Monica Roberts
It seems that no matter where we live or what decade we’re talking about, when the justice system concerns transwomen of color, justice is delayed, denied, and disgraceful.
Back in 1998, William Palmer, the man who killed Chanelle Pickett in Boston was given a 2 1/2 year sentence with 6 months suspended, and 5 years probation. Never mind the fact that Palmer strangled Pickett, then slept for six hours next to Chanelle’s lifeless body lying beside his bed before he turned himself in. The judge presiding over the case commented bitterly to the defendant at the time “Mr. Palmer should kiss the ground the defense counsel walks on.”
On August 12, 2002 Stephanie Thomas and Ukea Davis die in a hail of bullets on the same southeast Washington DC street corner that Tyra Hunter died due to EMT neglect. As of this writing there’s not only been no arrest, but the execution style killings aren’t even classified as a hate crime.
Never mind the fact that rumors in the community persist that the trigger men who executed the grisly crime are guys who picked up the two transwomen on dates and found out their transgender status after the fact.
Tiffany Berry’s killer, DeAndre Blake, walked the streets of Memphis, TN as a free man for almost two years after being released on a ridiculously low $20,000 bond. Blake admitted he had killed Berry on February 9, 2006 because he did not like the way she had “touched” him. He was arrested last month for killing his own two year old daughter.
Even across The Pond, the recent trial of 18 year old Shanniel Hyatt for the murder of Kellie Telesford had the same depressing results.
So what’s causing these miscarriages of justice?
For starters, we’ve always had the situation in this country in which the lives of people of color aren’t as valued as the life a white male or female. Toss transgender status into that mix, and it’s a foul recipe for injustice.
Add to this recipe for injustice trans panic defenses. What the defendant will do is claim for example, that when they discovered that the woman they’re with is discovered to be transgender, it causes them to become so enraged that they committed the crime they ordinarily wouldn’t have done and were not of sound mind and body when they did it.
In a nutshell, they’re trying to blame the victim and use the sensationalist nature of transgender issues against them in order to get away with murder.
And too many times it works. Continue reading