CeCe McDonald Pleads Guilty to Second Degree Manslaughter

CeCe McDonald, a trans woman from Minnesota, today pleaded guilty to second degree manslaughter in the death of Dean Schmitz.

According to Colorlines writer Jamilah King:

Reports out of Minneapolis have it that CeCe McDonald has accepted a plea deal to second degree manslaughter due to negligence in the death of Dean Schmitz. McDonald is a black transgender woman who says she was attacked by Schmitz with racist and homophobic slurs. Her supporters have rallied at the court house all week, saying that her case is a stunning example of institutional biases against black and transgender communities.

Luce Guillen-Givins, a member of McDonald’s Support Committee, said that the plea deal stipulates that McDonald will spend 41 months in prison.

Law Professor Dean Spade, who is attending the trial, posted to his Facebook:

CeCe just took a plea deal--2nd degree manslaughter with a recommended 41 month sentence (actual sentencing hearing will be in a month). Horrifying to watch her forced to recount the events of her attack on the stand, to watch the judge speak to her condescendingly about how pulling scissors out of her purse as her attacker chased her down the street unlawfully endangered her attacker. This system is so disgusting. Still, I am inspired by her support team here in MN and people all over sending love.

CeCe’s story is yet another reminder of the violence and bias that trans women—particularly trans women of color—continue to face when trying to safely walk the streets of their communities or navigating the criminal justice system.

The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs found that violence against LGBT people was up 13 percent last year. 70 percent of the victims murdered were people of color, and 44 percent were transgender women.

Trans community leaders including Laverne Cox and the Free CeCe McDonald campaign have all worked to raise visibility about this injustice.  Advocate Janet Mock, talked about CeCe's case during her  keynote address at the Univesity of Southern California’s Lavender Celebration, a graduation ceremony for LGBT students and allies.

The National Center for Transgender Equality's Founding Executive Directory Mara Keisling issued the following statement:

“I’m really torn up about this case. Here we have a justice system that’s criminalized Cece for surviving. While it’s been really moving to see how community activists have rallied around Cece and her family, the reality is that Cece’s life isn’t ever going to be the same. And this is a painful truth for so many other transgender women of color who’ve been victimized by hate and fear.”

Dr. Jillian T. Weiss, Professor of Law and Society at Ramapo College and Bilerico Project contributor wrote:

We must be outraged by this. When we lose our sense of outrage is when we lose our humanity.

The appearance of justice is as important as justice itself. When George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin, he was presumed by the police to have had the right to self-defense, to stand his ground. We, as a country, reacted against this apparent denial of justice, despite the law's backing of the police. We wanted to see justice being done. Here, in the case of CeCe McDonald, the law also appeared to back law enforcement's account, and Ms. McDonald's right to self-defense was put on the ropes by the judge after several evidentiary rulings went against her. These rulings mean the jury would never hear the whole story. They would have seen the bloody T-shirt of the victim, and heard about Ms. McDonald's bad check and witnesses who claimed she committed intentional murder, but they wouldn't see the victim's swastika, they wouldn't hear about his assaults on his girlfriend, her 14-year old daughter and her father. The jury wouln't hear about what transgender people have to face on the streets. They wouldn't hear about the theft convictions of the witnesses against her and get to question the credibility of such witnesses.

Ms. McDonald has survived a murderous, racist and transphobic attack, only to find herself another kind of victim.

The Support CeCe website can be found here.

GLAAD urges the media to cover CeCe McDonald's story and the overwhelming support she is continuing to receive. We continue to urge the media to highlight the discrimination trans women of color face.