Prosecutors Trample Freedom of the Press to Continue Retaliation against Chrishaun McDonald

Supporters Pack Courtroom in Response to Latest Retaliation for McDonald’s Plea Refusal

November 9, 2011

Contact: Katie Burgess, Executive Director, Trans Youth Support Network (TYSN) transyouthsupportnetwork@gmail.com, (612) 363-7574; and Billy Navarro, Jr., MN Transgender Health Coalition, mntranspr@gmail.com, (612) 823-1152

Minneapolis, MN – In a clear continuation of a retaliatory agenda against Chrishaun Mai’Luv Reed “CeCe” McDonald for her refusal of a plea bargain, the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office has filed a motion to compel the Star Tribune to turn over a letter McDonald wrote in response to an interview request shortly after being arrested on June 5 of this year. McDonald is facing two felony murder charges after being verbally and physically assaulted by a group of white adults while passing by Schooner Tavern. One of the attackers, Dean Schmitz, who had a swastika tattoo on his chest, died of a stab wound in the ensuing scuffle. The prosecutors in the case added an additional murder charge after McDonald refused a plea offer in late September to a lesser charge and seven years in prison.

Earlier this year, the prosecutors in the case requested a full copy of the letter the Star Tribune received after the newspaper requested an interview with McDonald. Citing freedom of speech and freedom of the press concerns, the Star Tribune refused to turn over its source to the State. In court today, John Borger, attorney for the newspaper, argued that the law protects freedom of the press and does not permit prosecutors to access news sources unless doing so is necessary for the pursuit of justice. In this case, Borger argued, the letter is not necessary for the prosecution, and if the court approves the prosecutors’ motion, it would lead to the newspaper becoming “a depository for a vacuum-cleaner approach” by the state at the expense of the important societal function played by the press.

This latest legal maneuver shows that the prosecutors are willing to go to great lengths to punish McDonald for invoking her right to a trial and demanding justice, supporters assert. “The prosecutors are continuing their retaliation against CeCe for demanding justice after being the target of a racist, transphobic attack,” said Billy Navarro Jr.. “Now they’re even trying to trample the Star Tribune’s freedom of the press in their backlash. This is yet another indication that they’re more interested in protecting the white supremacist system that continues to target CeCe and other trans youth of color than in ensuring ‘justice’ is served.”

The prosecutors repeatedly argued that the letter in full is necessary for them to ensure justice, mentioning that additional expense and legal actions, such as subpoenas for reporters, would likely result if their motion was not granted. In response, Hersch Izek of the Legal Rights Center, who is representing McDonald, asserted that the state is conducting a “fishing expedition” in the case and has failed to meet the legal requirements for compelling the Star Tribune to turn over the letter.

The prosecutors’ continuing retaliation and support of bigotry and hate has not dissuaded McDonald from pursuing justice in her case. Nor has it dissuaded McDonald’s supporters from organizing nationwide support for McDonald in the lead-up to trial. Supporters continue to uphold their commitment to packing the courtroom and spreading the word about the injustice McDonald is suffering in the courtroom. McDonald’s trial is tentatively scheduled to begin on January 9. Visit https://supportcece.wordpress.com or email mpls4cece@gmail.com for more information.

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