The First Federal Hate Crime Trial Based on Gender Begins in South Carolina

( — Daqua Lameek Ritter’s criminal trial began on February 20th, marking the first federal hate crime trial based on an incident pertaining to a victim’s gender identity. Ritter faces murder and hate crime charges based on allegations stemming from his alleged involvement in the death of a transgender woman. Ritter allegedly killed the victim due to the victim’s transgender identity and fled South Carolina. Authorities eventually arrested Ritter in New York in 2023, approximately four years after the murder occurred.

Prosecutors allege that Ritter convinced the transgender woman, whose name hasn’t been disclosed to the public, to drive to an isolated area in South Carolina. Ritter then allegedly shot the transgender victim’s head multiple times and left the scene at a nearby family member’s house. Upon successfully leaving the murder scene, Ritter then left the state before investigators could find him, successfully evading law enforcement for about four years. Ritter’s trial is especially noteworthy, as it’s the first federal trial focusing on a hate crime committed due to someone’s gender identity. According to certain law enforcement agencies, murders like the one committed by Ritter are becoming more frequent.

A 2022 statistical report from the FBI indicated that hate crimes based on transgender people’s identities are up by over 30 percent compared to 2021. Homeland Security also released a statement about gender identity-based hate crimes, with a spokesperson for the department claiming that minority transgender citizens face more incidents involving violence than white transgender people. The growing trend of gender-based hate crimes comes just 13 years after the federal government expanded hate crime statutes to include crimes committed based on someone’s gender identity.

Although Ritter’s trial is the first federal hate crime trial related to gender identity, it isn’t the first instance of such a crime reaching federal courts. A similar incident occurred in 2017 when a man accepted a plea deal after he murdered a teenage transgender woman. The murder happened in Mississippi, and the perpetrator received a prison term of almost 50 years.

Ritter’s trial is the first time a jury decided to take an individual to trial for a hate crime based on the victim’s gender identity. According to prosecutors, Ritter and the victim were close friends and engaged in an intimate relationship the weeks before the murder. Prosecutors also said Ritter and the victim were distantly related. The incident reportedly stemmed from an argument between Ritter and his girlfriend after she found out about the relationship between Ritter and the victim, and Ritter was upset after his girlfriend insulted him. Ritter allegedly responded to the insult by murdering the victim.

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