Man Found Guilty In First-Ever Federal Trial for Gender-Based Hate Crime

This article contains a description of violence against a Black trans woman.

A South Carolina man was found guilty of murder in connection with the 2019 killing of a Black transgender woman, marking the first time in U.S. history that a federal jury has convicted a defendant for a gender-based hate crime.

Daqua Lameek Ritter was found guilty of all charges, including obstruction of justice, using a firearm in the commission of a hate crime, and murder as a hate crime, according to a press release from the Department of Justice.

According to the DOJ, evidence presented at trial showed that Ritter lured the woman, referred to in court documents as Dime Doe, to a remote area in Allendale, South Carolina after growing upset that knowledge about his sexual relationship with her was spreading in his community, and then shot her three times. Prosecutors said he killed Doe to prevent more information about his involvement with a trans woman from getting out. After he shot Doe, Ritter burned the clothes he was wearing, got rid of the murder weapon, and reportedly lied to law enforcement repeatedly. According to police interview footage, he denied seeing Doe on the day she died, contradicting video evidence of the two in a car together. The 26-year-old faces a maximum penalty of life in prison, although a hearing for his sentencing hasn’t yet been scheduled.

Ritter’s case was the first trial related to violence against a trans person that was held under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The federal statute, passed in 2009, permits federal criminal prosecution of hate crimes motivated by the victim’s perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity. While a Mississippi man was previously sentenced to 49 years for the murder of a trans woman in 2017, this case marked the first time that a gender-based hate crime went on trial at the federal level, as South Carolina is one of only two U.S. states that has not passed its own hate crimes law.

“The jury’s verdict sends a clear message: Black trans lives matter, bias-motivated violence will not be tolerated, and perpetrators of hate crimes will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Assistant General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in the department’s press release.

Speaking to the online magazine Zora shortly after Doe’s death, friends described her as “the most loving, happy, joyful, outgoing person you could ever meet.”

“She was never a sad person,” Dime’s friend, Tionna Dunbar, told the outlet. “You could barely catch her mad. She always kept it energetic.”

Advocacy group Transgender Europe’s 2023 Trans Murder Monitoring report found that worldwide 321 trans and gender-diverse people were reported murdered between October 1, 2022, and September 30, 2023, with trans people affected by racism making up 80% of all murders and trans women or trans feminine people making up 94% of all murders.

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