Man Convicted of Murder of Transgender Woman in First Federal Trial of Its Kind

A South Carolina man was found guilty Friday of killing a transgender woman in what authorities said was the first federal murder trial of someone accused of a gender-based hate crime.

After several hours of deliberation, jurors found a man, Daqua Lameek Ritter, guilty of a hate crime in the 2019 murder of a woman, Dima Doe.

“It’s a testament to our commitment to prosecuting these crimes,” said Brook Andrews, First Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina. “It also stands as a reminder that Dime’s life matters. It’s a huge result for us and the people in that community.”

Federal officials have previously prosecuted hate crimes based on gender identity.

A Mississippi man got a 49-year prison sentence in 2017 as part of a plea deal after admitting to killing a 17-year-old transgender woman. However, this is the first homicide case in the country to go to trial where someone has been charged with a gender-based hate crime, Mr Andrews said.

Mr. Ritter, who was also found guilty of obstructing justice and using a firearm in connection with the murder, faces a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole. No sentencing date has been set.

Mr. Ritter, who is from New York, would visit his grandmother in Allendale, SC. During that time, he became close to Ms. Dime, according to court documents.

Ms. Doe grew up in Allendale, where she worked as a hairdresser, and moved in her early 20s, Mr. Andrews said. She was 24 years old at the time of her death.

Witnesses told law enforcement officials that Ms. Doe and Mr. Ritter were in a sexual relationship during the time leading up to her death. Mr. Ritter tried to keep the relationship a secret because he didn’t want his girlfriend or the community to know about it, according to court documents.

Prosecutors said Mr. Ritter was upset that news of his sexual relationship with Ms. Doe was circulating in Allendale. Mr. Ritter became “furious” after Ms. Doe went public with their relationship, and many of his friends mocked him for it, according to court documents.

Witnesses said that caused him to threaten to harm Ms. Doe, according to court documents.

Mr. Ritter picked up Ms. Doe and was pulled over by an Allendale County sheriff’s deputy for speeding. The deputy’s body camera footage shows Mr. Ritter’s “striking” jeans, as well as a tattoo and a scar on his arm, according to court documents, which offer no further details.

Prosecutors said Mr. Ritter then lured Ms. Doe to a remote area in Allendale and shot her three times in the head. He then burned the clothes he wore during the crime, discarded the murder weapon and repeatedly lied to investigators, according to federal prosecutors.

Transgender people are four times more likely than cisgender people to experience violent victimization, including rape, sexual assault, and aggravated or simple assault, according to a 2021 study by the Williams Institute at UCLA Law School.

One of Mr. Ritter’s defense lawyers, Joshua Kendrick, argued that there were inconsistencies in the government’s case.

He pointed to text messages that showed “a lot of respect and a calm nature” that did not match government witnesses who told investigators they knew about Mr. Ritter with violence.

“I felt we pointed out a lot of inconsistencies, the jury was out,” Mr. Kendrick said Saturday. “They reached a verdict that we respect, although we are disappointed by it.”

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