First Gender-Based Hate Crime Trial Begins in Federal Court

( – A federal court in South Carolina is holding the first hate crime trial linked to gender identity after a man was charged with allegedly murdering a transgender woman in August 2019. The defendant, Daqua Lameek Ritter, is accused of shooting and killing the transgender woman with whom he purportedly had an intimate relationship.

Federal prosecutors allege that Ritter convinced the victim—named Dime Doe in court documents—to drive to a remote area in South Carolina, where they claim Ritter shot Doe thrice in the head. Ritter then fled to New York, according to prosecutors.

In 2009, the United States expanded hate crime laws to include offenses motivated by gender and sexual identity. Although the updated hate crime laws led to the conviction of a Mississippi man in 2017, Ritter’s case marks the first time such a crime has gone to a federal jury trial.

Prosecutors accuse Ritter of murdering the transgender woman after his friends and girlfriend learned about their intimate relationship. The crime was motivated by Ritter’s “anger at being mocked” for the relationship, prosecutors said in a court filing.

Ritter faces life in prison if convicted of the hate crime charge. Ritter also faces an obstruction of justice charge, which carries a possible penalty of 20 years in prison.

Prosecutors also charged a second man, Xavier Pinckney, with obstruction of justice and lying to federal investigators. In October 2023, Pinckney pleaded guilty to the obstruction charge, admitting to lying to investigators about seeing Ritter on the morning of the alleged murder. Pinckney also admitted to concealing the use of his phone to communicate with Doe on the day of the suspected murder.

The Justice Department said that it remains committed to prosecuting hate crimes and those who attempt to obstruct investigations thereof. Violence against transgender women of color is on the rise, the Justice Department said, adding that such crimes have “no place” in the US.

Ritter’s fate is now in the hands of a jury, which will determine whether he murdered Doe and, if so, whether the act was rooted in gender-based hate.

Copyright 2024,