Before Her Murder, the Texts Got Tense

Man found guilty of killing Black transgender woman, the first federal hate-crime trial of its kind
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 24, 2024 6:00 AM CST
In First Federal Hate-Crime Trial of Its Kind, a Verdict
This combo of undated selfie images show Dime Doe, a Black transgender woman.   (Courtesy Dime Doe family via AP)

A South Carolina man was found guilty Friday of killing a Black transgender woman in the nation's first federal trial over a hate crime based on gender identity. After deliberating for roughly four hours, jurors convicted Daqua Lameek Ritter of a hate crime for the murder of Dime Doe in 2019. Ritter was also found guilty of using a firearm in connection with the fatal shooting and obstructing justice, per the AP. A sentencing date hasn't yet been scheduled. Ritter faces a maximum of life imprisonment without parole. While federal officials have previously prosecuted hate crimes based on gender identity, the cases never reached trial. The four-day trial over Doe's killing centered on the secret sexual relationship between her and Ritter, the latter of whom had grown agitated by the exposure of their affair in the small town of Allendale, per witness testimony and text messages obtained by the FBI.

Prosecutors accused Ritter of shooting Doe three times with a .22-caliber handgun to prevent further revelation of his involvement with a transgender woman. Prosecutors presented police interviews in which Ritter said he didn't see Doe the day she died. But body camera video from a traffic stop of Doe showed Ritter's distinctive left wrist tattoo on a person in the passenger seat hours before police found her slumped in the car, parked in a driveway. Defense lawyer Lindsey Vann argued at trial that no physical evidence pointed to Ritter. State law enforcement never processed a gunshot residue test that he took voluntarily, she said, and the pair's intimate relationship and frequent car rides made it no surprise that Ritter would have been with her. Texts obtained by the FBI, however, suggested Ritter sought to keep their relationship under wraps as much as possible, prosecutors said.

He reminded her to delete their communications from her phone, and hundreds of texts sent in the month before her death were removed. Shortly before Doe's death, their exchanges grew tense. In one message from July 29, 2019, she complained that Ritter didn't reciprocate her generosity; he replied that he thought they had an understanding that she didn't need the "extra stuff." Ritter's defense attorneys said the sampling represented only a "snapshot" of their messages. "This case stands as a testament to our committed effort to fight violence that is targeted against those who may identify as a member of the opposite sex, for their sexual orientation, or for any other protected characteristics," Brook Andrews, an assistant US attorney for the District of South Carolina, told reporters after the verdict. More here.

(More transgender stories.)

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