April 30, 2012 – Today, Chrishaun “CeCe” McDonald, a transgender woman of color, will be tried for the alleged murder of her attacker. Last June, Ms. McDonald was the victim of an attack in which, in the course of defending herself, one of her attackers was killed. Though witnesses reported criminal conduct on the part of several individuals, only Ms. McDonald was arrested. In 2011, the Hennepin County Attorney declined to prosecute at least three cases where assailants were killed when victims—who were not transwomen of color—had engaged in self-defense. By contrast, he has aggressively prosecuted Ms. McDonald. It seems that Ms. McDonald was limited to two choices on the night of her attack: defend herself and risk prosecution like the New Jersey 4, or end up dead like the three transgender women in Detroit, Miami, and Chicagowho have been murdered in the past month.
Transgender women of color experience the highest rates of hate violence among the LGBTIQH community. A reportby the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs documented that people who were both transgender and of color were almost 2.5 times more likely to experience discrimination and nearly twice as likely to experience intimidation as non-transgender white individuals. Transgender women represented 44% of anti-LGBTIQH murders in 2010 even though they only represented 11% of the total reports of hate violence. And tellingly, 48.3% of transgender people of color reported that police were indifferent when responding to their attacks. Queer and trans people of color regularly document being targeted by police and experiencing police violence based on gender non-conforming appearances. Many transgender women recount being charged with prostitution simply for walking down the street or carrying condoms, while police grope them in frisks and carry out strip searches for the purposes of gender assignment.
As in similar cases involving self-defense by LGBTIQH individuals of color, Ms. McDonald has not been afforded the same presumption of innocence, nor the same immunity for self-defense, that protect other victims. After her arrest she, like many transgender detainees, was treated discriminatorily, held in solitary confinement and denied – for over two months – follow-up medical care for the injuries she sustained during the attack. The Hennepin County Attorney, who has been a staunch advocate for the rights of domestic violence survivors, continues to punish Ms. McDonald for staying alive.
CCR encourages supporters of CeCe McDonald and other queer and trans victims of violence to sign the petition at http://www.change.org/petitions/free-cece-we-re-looking-at-you-michael-freeman-drop-the-charges-against-cece-mcdonald. Read more about the case at https://supportcece.wordpress.com/.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.