The Lateisha Green Murder: Violence Against Transgender People Resource Kit
On July 13, 2009, the trial for the murder of Lateisha Green - a 22-year-old African American transgender woman - will begin in Syracuse, New York. Due to this landmark case's complexities and its significance for LGBT people, it is of utmost importance that media coverage of Lateisha's tragic death be inclusive, accurate, and respectful of a community that is too often targeted for harassment and violence.
On November 14, 2008, Lateisha "Teish" Green was shot and killed outside a house party in Syracuse, New York. The accused shooter, Dwight R. DeLee, was allegedly motivated by anti-LGBT bias and his belief that Lateisha was gay. The Onondaga County District Attorney has charged DeLee with second degree murder as a hate crime.
That Lateisha was, in fact, transgender highlights the unique nature of this prosecution, as well as the need for reform of New York State and federal hate crime laws. New York State law currently classifies it as a hate crime for an individual to target and attack a victim because of the victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation. While Lateisha was a transgender woman, Lateisha's murder is a hate crime because her attacker perceived her to be gay and targeted her for violence because of that perception. Neither New York State nor federal hate crime laws include gender identity or gender expression as protected hate crime categories. Indeed, federal law includes neither gender identity and expression nor sexual orientation as hate crime categories.
According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, murders of LGBT people in 2008 increased 28% from the previous year. More than 2,400 people reported being victims of hate violence involving incidents motivated by anti-LGBT bias. 12% of these reports on hate violence involved incidents motivated by anti-transgender bias. Nearly 300 transgender people filed reports of violence against them during the reporting period. On average, a transgender person is murdered once a month in the United States, based upon information collected by Remembering Our Dead and Transgender Day of Remembrance.
By looking back on Lateisha Green's death and the countless other incidents of tragic violence that occur every year due to anti-LGBT bias, the media can play a vital role in determining future community and law enforcement response to hate-motivated attacks. Hate crime legislation that would explicitly protect transgender people from violence is currently pending in New York and at the federal level. In New York, the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (S.2406), which has passed the State Assembly and is awaiting Senate action, would make it a hate crime for an individual to attack another because of the victim’s gender identity or expression. At the federal level, the Matthew Shepard Act (S.909), which would expand existing federal hate crime law to include crimes motivated by gender identity or sexual orientation (as well as gender and disability), was passed by the House of Representatives on April 29, 2009, by a vote of 249 - 175. On June 25, 2009, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the Matthew Shepard Act. The bill has not yet been scheduled for a vote in the Senate. The Obama administration has listed the passing of the Matthew Shepard Act in its goals for civil rights during the President's first term.