The trial of Dwight DeLee, charged with murder as a hate crime in the Nov. 2008 shooting of 22-year-old Lateisha Green, began in Syracuse on Monday. Teish, a transgender woman, was shot and killed as she sat in a car with her younger brother and a friend outside of a house party, and her murderer allegedly used anti-gay slurs before committing the crime. The trial is receiving national attention, as it marks the first hate crimes prosecution in New York State involving the murder of a transgender person. The Pride Agenda recently released a statement on the trial, and comprehensive updates are available on TLDEF’s blog. Here’s a summary of proceedings so far:
On Monday, Teish’s openly gay younger brother, 19-year-old Mark Anthony Cannon, testified on the events the night of his sister’s murder. Mark testified that he drove Teish and a friend to the scene of the crime so that they could talk to a friend. After just a few minutes of sitting in the car, someone fired a gun, and the bullet hit both Mark and Teish, though his injuries were less severe. When asked to identify the shooter, Mark pointed to Dwight DeLee. Teish died from her injuries later that evening in the hospital.
On Tuesday, one witness testified that she saw a man (who by process of elimination, would be DeLee) go into the house, get the gun, and shoot Teish after hearing his friends use anti-gay slurs. However, DeeLee’s friend and girlfriend, Johhny and Jasmine Gaston, recanted their official statements about witnessing the shooting and DeLee expressing guilt over it afterwards. Both said that they had been scared when interrogated by the police and had just signed their statements because they wanted to go home.
On Wednesday, the judge made a public statement against an altercation that happened on Tuesday night outside of the courtroom resulting from threats made by friends and members of accused shooter’s family. During the day’s proceedings, he also told DeLee that he was aware that people who knew DeLee were threatening witnesses, and that such threats could result in criminal charges.
Two witnesses testified that they heard DeLee use an anti-gay slur, and then heard the gunshot or saw DeLee holding the gun after the shooting, although they didn’t see the actual shooting happen. A different eyewitness testified that she did, indeed, see DeLee shoot the gun into the car. And two final witnesses testified that they saw someone with dark skin shoot into the car (with DeLee being the only person present who matches that description). Several of the witnesses confirmed that DeLee had made anti-gay threats before the shooting.
Today, the jury heard closing arguments, and it is now deliberating. We’ll keep you updated on the verdict in this important trial.