A New York judge has sentenced Dwight
DeLee to the maximum term of 25 years in prison for the November
killing of Lateisha Green, a transgender woman.
Last month, jurors found DeLee guilty
of first-degree manslaughter as a hate crime in the murder of Green
outside a house party in Syracuse, but the six men and six women jury
rejected the more serious charge of second-degree murder.
“Today, a measure of justice has been
delivered for Lateisha Green and her family with the imposition of
the maximum sentence for this crime,” Michael Silverman, executive
director of the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund
(TLDEF), said in a statement.
Jurors said that DeLee, 20, only
intended to seriously injure and not kill Green. The additional hate
crime count added 5 years to Judge William Walsh's 25-year prison
sentence. It is only the second hate crime conviction in the nation
involving a transgender person. In May, a Colorado jury found Allen
Andrade guilty of beating 18-year-old Angie Zapata to death with a
fire extinguisher because she was transgender.
Twenty-two-year-old Lateisha Green was
killed on November 14, a Friday, sitting in a car parked outside a
friend's house. She, her openly gay brother Mark Cannon, and a third
person were in the car while people in the home yelled gay slurs at
them, police say.
“Dwight DeLee goes into the residence
at 411 Seymour Street, returns with a 22 caliber rifle, puts the
rifle to the driver's side window of that vehicle and fires one
round,” said Syracuse Police Chief Gary Miguel. “And that one
round strikes Mark Cannon in the arm, and continues on and strikes
Moses Cannon [Lateisha Green] in the chest area.”
Mark Cannon, 18 at the time, managed to
drive the car to the family's home for help.
Cannon was the first to testify at
trial, telling jurors about the night Green was shot. Two witnesses
who told detectives they saw DeLee kill Green recanted their
statements under testimony. Other witnesses testified that they
heard men at the party using gay slurs to describe Green but not
necessarily DeLee. Cannon fingered DeLee as the gunman in his
Prosecutors argued that DeLee attacked
Green because he thought she was gay.
Green began living as a woman at the
age of 16, and received a slash to the face from a high school peer
for that decision, Green's aunt, Rhonda Gary, said at a press event
before the trial's opening.
“While nothing can make up for the
loss Lateisha's family has suffered, this sentence helps to bring
some closure to Lateisha's family. The sentence sends a clear
message that violence targeted at transgender people will be heavily
penalized,” TLDEF's Silverman said Tuesday.