November 24, 2014

New York High Court Allows Retrial on Hate Crime Charge in Killing of Transgender Woman Lateisha Green

Overturns Prior Conviction for Manslaughter As a Hate Crime as Inconsistent

Onondaga County District Attorney Can Resubmit Hate Crime Charge to Grand Jury for Retrial

New York, NY - The Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF) today renewed its call for justice in the case of a slain transgender woman after the New York State Court of Appeals overturned the hate crime conviction of the man accused of killing her but allowed the state to retry him on the disputed hate crime charge. DeLee was originally 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. The Onondaga County District Attorney's Office appealed that decision and today the state’s highest court agreed that the verdict could not stand. But in reaching its conclusion, the court also opened the door for the Onondaga County District Attorney's Office to resubmit the hate crime charge to a grand jury and retry DeLee on that charge.

“Lateisha Green was singled out and killed simply because she was transgender,” said TLDEF Executive Director Michael Silverman. “Dwight DeLee’s conviction brought a measure of justice to Teish’s family and friends.  In light of today’s ruling, we urge the Onondaga County District Attorney to bring new hate crime charges against DeLee. The high court has given us an opening and the District Attorney should bring this case once again so there is a final chance to achieve a measure of justice for Lateisha.”

Lateisha’s mother expressed relief at the ruling. “While I would have preferred to put this behind me while Teish’s killer served out his sentence, I nevertheless welcome the chance to see justice served in his retrial," said Roxanne Green. “I will never stop fighting for Teish. I hope that the District Attorney’s office will retry this case and swiftly bring it to an end.  I am certain that justice will be done for my beloved daughter.”

The case is The People v. Dwight R. DeLee.