November 13, 2013
Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF) to Observe Transgender Day of Remembrance by Reaffirming its Commitment to Seek Justice for Lateisha Green
Organization Urges New York Court of Appeals to Restore Hate Crime Conviction of Dwight DeLee in the 2008 Murder of Syracuse Transgender Woman
NEW YORK, NY - As we approach the 15th Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20, The Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF) is renewing its call for the New York Court of Appeals to reinstate the jury’s verdict and Dwight DeLee’s conviction 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. This Thursday marks five-years since the tragic incident.
Green died November 14, 2008 after she was shot outside a house party in Syracuse. Dwight DeLee reportedly shot her 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 sentenced him to 25 years in prison for the crime. It was the first time a New York jury had delivered a hate crime conviction in the killing of a transgender person. The jury reached the first degree manslaughter as a hate crime verdict because it determined that DeLee had targeted Green based on his perception of her sexual orientation, which is protected under New York’s Hate Crimes Law.
But this past July 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 not guilty of first degree manslaughter, but guilty of first degree manslaughter as a hate crime. The 4th Appellate Division tossed out the conviction, concluding that jury confusion about the judge’s instructions led to a conflicting verdict.
“We strongly disagree with the 4th Appellate Division’s conclusion,” said Michael Silverman, Executive Director of the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF). “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 month, TLDEF and several other LGBT and civil rights organizations including, Lambda Legal, the Empire State Pride Agenda, the Anti-Defamation League, and The New York City Anti-Violence Project, filed an amicus or, “friend of the court brief” with the New York Court of Appeals, respectfully urging that judicial body to reverse the 4th Appellate Division’s ruling and reinstate Dwight DeLee’s conviction.
The brief reads in part: ... “vacating that conviction would be a grave miscarriage of justice that would subvert the jury’s plain intent,” and “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 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 is part of an overall effort by the New York LGBT and allied community to stand together with the family of Teish Green, and speak out about this gross injustice. Green’s family is devastated and angry about the conviction reversal.
“I am outraged that our daughter’s killer was released from prison on a technicality,” said Roxanne Green, the mother of Teish Green. “Where is the Justice? I cannot believe you can kill someone, get convicted, sentenced and then all of a sudden you are free.”
The Transgender Day of Remembrance began in 1999 when activists held a vigil to honor the life of Boston activist, Rita Hester, a 34-year African American transgender woman who was viciously murdered the previous year in her apartment. Transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith began what has grown into a worldwide commemoration of all those killed by anti-transgender violence. Hundreds of thousands of people across the globe now observe the solemn day.
“Here in New York, this year’s Transgender Day of Remembrance reignites our push for the restoration of Dwight DeLee’s conviction in the killing of Teish Green,” said TLDEF’s Michael Silverman. “Teish Green deserves justice, and we’ll continue to fight in her memory and in the memory of all transgender lives lost to senseless violence.”
To find the location of a Transgender Day of Remembrance event near you, visit: http://www.transgenderdor.org.