SYRACUSE, N.Y. – A jury on Friday convicted a man of manslaughter as a hate crime for killing a transgender woman he shot outside a house party last year.
Dwight DeLee was found guilty of first-degree manslaughter for the fatal shooting of 22-year-old Lateisha Green outside a Syracuse house party in November because of anti-gay bias. He becomes just the second person in the U.S. convicted of a hate crime that involved the death of a transgender victim.
The Onondaga County Court jury delivered its verdict after deliberating for about six hours over two days.
DeLee had no reaction when the verdict was announced. His attorney had no comment as he left the courthouse.
"We've spent months waiting for this day to come," said Elliot Green, an uncle who spoke on behalf of the victim's family. "The jury made it clear that any loss of life in this country because of transgender or anti-gay bias is unacceptable and will not be tolerated."
DeLee will be sentenced Aug. 18. He faces no less than 10 years in state prison and no more than 25 years. He faces a longer prison term because of the hate crime conviction.
The jury acquitted DeLee, 20, of a more serious second-degree murder as a hate crime charge.
The manslaughter verdict means that DeLee was only intending to seriously injure, not kill, someone when he fired one shot from a .22-caliber rifle into the car in which the victim was sitting with his brother and a friend.
Green, who was born Moses Cannon but began living as a woman at age 16, frequently dressed in women's clothing but was wearing jeans and a T-shirt the night she was killed.
During three days of testimony, DeLee's attorney, Clarence Johnson, denied prosecution claims that his client hated homosexuals. Johnson contended prosecutors presented no evidence showing DeLee had a history of anti-gay bias before the shooting.
But several witnesses said they heard DeLee refer to Green as a "faggot" just before Green was shot with a .22-caliber rifle while sitting in a parked car outside the party. But Johnson noted that other witnesses attributed the slur to others at the party.
The U.S. Senate Thursday approved legislation to extend current federal hate crimes protections to gays and other groups. The Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, named after the gay Wyoming college student murdered in 1998, was proposed as an amendment to a $680 billion bill to approve defense programs.
The bill would expand federal hate crimes — currently defined as those motivated by race, color, national origin or religion — to include gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. The House passed a similar hate crimes bill in April.
The only other hate crime conviction in the slaying of a transgendered person occurred in May when a jury in Colorado convicted Allen Andrade of beating 18-year-old Angie Zapata to death with a fire extinguisher after discovering she was biologically male.