New York High Court to Hear Appeal in Case of Slain Transgender Woman Lateisha Green
TLDEF Urges Court of Appeals to Restore Hate Crime Conviction in 2008 Killing
October 15, 2014 - TLDEF renews its call for justice in the case of a slain transgender woman as New York’s highest court is set to hear an appeal of the overturned conviction of the man who took her life. Oral arguments are scheduled for 2 PM in Albany today in “The People v. Dwight R. DeLee.” DeLee was convicted of manslaughter in the first degree as a hate crime for the 2008 killing of Syracuse resident Lateisha “Teish” Green, a 22-year-old African American transgender woman.
Green died November 14, 2008 after she was shot outside a house party in Syracuse. Evidence at trial demonstrated that DeLee shot her because she was transgender and because he believed she was gay. A jury found DeLee guilty of manslaughter in the first degree as a hate crime in July of 2009 and in August of that year he was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
It was the first time a New York jury had delivered a hate crime conviction in the killing of a transgender person, and only the second hate crime conviction in the nation stemming from the killing of a transgender person. The jury reached the first degree manslaughter as a hate crime verdict after determining that DeLee had targeted Green based on his perception of her sexual orientation, which is a protected category under New York’s hate crimes law.
But in July of 2013 the conviction was set aside by The New York Supreme Court’s 4th Appellate Division because of what the court viewed as an “inconsistent” verdict: The jury found DeLee guilty of first degree manslaughter as a hate crime, but not guilty of first degree manslaughter. The court tossed out the conviction, concluding that jury confusion about the judge’s instructions led to a conflicting verdict.
“We disagree with the 4th Appellate Division’s conclusion in this case and urge the Court of Appeals to reinstate Dwight DeLee’s conviction,” said TLDEF Executive Director Michael Silverman. “We believe the jury reached a proper verdict based on its understanding of the Judge’s instructions, viewing first degree manslaughter alone as a lesser offense and therefore choosing ‘not guilty’ on that charge, but concluding that first degree manslaughter as a hate crime was the correct verdict, and therefore convicting DeLee on that charge.”
Last year, TLDEF and several other civil rights organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League, the Center on the Administration of Criminal Law at New York University’s School of Law, the Empire State Pride Agenda, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center in New York City, the New York City Anti-Violence Project, the Transgender Alliance, and Lambda Legal filed an amicus brief with the New York State Court of Appeals, urging it to reinstate DeLee’s conviction.
The brief stated in part: ...“vacating that conviction would be a grave miscarriage of justice that would subvert the jury’s plain intent.” It further argued that “allowing the person who shot Lateisha Green to walk free would frustrate the purpose of New York’s Hate Crimes Law, working in exact opposition to the Legislature’s two stated goals of enhancing punishment and deterring future hate crimes. And it would not only dishonor Ms. Green’s memory but also cause her family unfathomable grief by revoking the solace they had in knowing that her killer had been brought to justice.”
The brief was part of an overall effort by the New York lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and allied community to stand together with the family of Teish Green, and speak out about this gross injustice. Green’s family was devastated and angry about last year’s conviction reversal, but has renewed optimism about the chances for a better final outcome following the appeal.
“I was outraged that our daughter’s killer was released from prison on a technicality,” said Roxanne Green, the mother of Teish Green. “I hope New York’s highest court will finally bring justice for Teish.”
The Onondaga County District Attorney's Office is presenting arguments for the reinstatement of DeLee’s conviction.