Lateisha, the middle child of three, was born and raised in Syracuse, New York. At 16, she came out as transgender to her family and community, and began to transition. Although her family was supportive and encouraging, she encountered tremendous discrimination outside her home. Early in her transition, her face was slashed when she was out on the street dressed as a woman. In high school, she endured horrifying abuse and harassment from her peers. She received death threats and was beaten by fellow students. While administrators at her school permitted Lateisha to come to school late and leave early in order to avoid other students, they did nothing to address the abuse itself. As a result, Lateisha had few
friends in school, which bothered her and her family. The isolation didn't fit her personality, which her mother Roxanne described as very outgoing and very social. Her brother Mark, 16, and her sister Shaconia, 26, were her closest friends and provided tremendous support to Lateisha.
One summer, Lateisha discovered her passion for childcare while working with children, taking them on trips, playing games and enjoying the social interaction she missed while in high school. Everyone expected that her future career path would involve childcare. Outside her professional life, Lateisha cultivated other passions. She loved to dance and she loved music, especially hip-hop, finding inspiration in artists like Lil’ Kim.
On November 14, 2008, Lateisha was allegedly shot and killed by Dwight R. DeLee outside a house party, which she went to with her brother Mark. Mark was also shot, but survived.
The Aftermath of Lateisha's Murder
Prosecutors have charged Dwight R. DeLee with murder in the second degree, murder in the second degree as a hate crime, and criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree in connection with Lateisha's murder. This is the first hate crime
prosecution in New York State involving the murder of a transgender person. Indeed, it is the first murder ever classified as a hate crime in Onondaga County. If DeLee is convicted of committing a hate crime, it will be only the second hate crime conviction involving the murder of a transgender person in the United States. Angie Zapata's murder trial led to the first such conviction. DeLee faces life in prison if convicted of murder.New York State law currently classifies it as a hate crime for an individual to target and attack a victim because of the victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation. While Lateisha was a transgender woman, her attacker perceived her to be gay. Lateisha's murder is a hate crime because her attacker perceived her to be gay and targeted her for violence because of that perception. That Lateisha was, in fact, transgender, highlights the unique nature of this prosecution as well as the need for reform of New York State and federal hate crime laws. Neither state nor federal hate crime laws include gender identity or gender expression as a protected hate crime category. Indeed, federal law includes neither gender identity and expression nor sexual orientation as hate crime categories.In June, Hon. William D. Walsh, County Court Judge made several rulings during a preliminary hearing in the case. Among them: he denied DeLee's constitutional challenge to the application of the hate crimes statute in this case, allowing the hate crime charges to proceed.
Violence Against Transgender People and Hate Crime Laws
According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, murders of LGBT people in 2008 increased 28% from the previous year. More than 2,400 people reported being victims of hate violence involving incidents motivated by anti-LGBT bias. 12% of these reports on hate violence involved incidents motivated by anti-transgender bias. Nearly 300 transgender people filed reports of violence against them during the reporting period. On average, a transgender person is murdered once a month in the United States, based upon information collected by Remembering Our Dead and Transgender Day of Remembrance.
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