A court in New York has found a man guilty of first-degree manslaughter as a hate crime for the killing of 22-year-old trans woman Lateisha Green.
The case is only the second of its kind to involve hate crimes against trans people.
Dwight DeLee, 20, was originally charged with second-degree murder as a hate crime, but Judge William Walsh advised the jury to consider convicting DeLee on a lesser charge.
The jury, made up of six men and six women, acquitted DeLee of the murder charge after determining that he had only intended to injure Green rather than kill her when he shot her with a .22-calibre rifle, according to the Syracuse Post-Standard. The verdict was delivered after six hours of deliberation over two days.
Green’s brother, who was with his sister in the car when she was shot, identified DeLee as the shooter. The family released a statement following the verdict to thank people for all their support through the trial.
The statement read: “Teish, a beautiful girl. A wonderful daughter. A brave soul. Teish was all of these things despite the adversity that regularly tried to weigh her down and overshadow her love of life. She was taken away from us too soon. All it took was one bullet.”
The trial centred around DeLee’s defence, presented by attorney Clarence Johnson, who argued his client was not homophobic, and that the homophobic slurs that several witnesses said they heard him call Green before the shooting were intended for other people at the party and not for her.
The Green family have been campaigning for a change in the law since Lateisha’s murder in November 2008, and DeLee was prosecuted under hate crime laws only on the basis that he thought Green was gay, rather than trans.
Several LGBT groups have come out to praise the verdict, with Michael Silverman, executive director of the Transgender Legal Defence and Education Fund, calling on the US Senate and the state of New York to pass bills to protect all transgender people.
In a statement, Mr Sliverman said: “Despite this legal victory, transgender New Yorkers still face a serious risk of violence and discrimination. New York state law does not include gender identity or expression in its hate-crime law and that sends a dangerous message that it is acceptable to leave part of our community vulnerable to hateful acts of violence simply because of who they are.”