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

The first federal trial over a hate crime based on gender identity commenced on Tuesday in Allendale, South Carolina. Daqua Lameek Ritter stands accused of killing a Black transgender woman, referred to as Dime Doe, and subsequently fleeing to New York. The U.S. Department of Justice alleges that Ritter lured Doe to a remote area in August 2019 before shooting her three times in the head with a .22 caliber handgun.

The trial marks a significant moment as hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ community, particularly transgender women of color, have seen a surge in recent years. According to the Department of Homeland Security, these individuals have long faced disproportionately high rates of violence and hate crimes. In 2022, reported gender identity-based hate crimes increased by 37% compared to the previous year. It is worth noting that federal hate crime laws did not account for offenses motivated by sexual orientation or gender identity until 2009.

While a conviction involving a victim targeted for their gender identity occurred in 2017, this trial represents the first time such a case has been brought to trial. The jury will determine whether to convict and further punish Ritter for the crime based on the victim’s gender identity.

During opening arguments, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ben Garner portrayed Ritter as someone desperate to avoid the potential ridicule that would arise if his secret relationship with Doe was exposed. The prosecution alleges that Ritter became enraged upon learning that one of Doe’s friends knew about their sexual relationship. Ritter threatened violence against Doe for sharing this information, which he had repeatedly instructed her not to disclose. Prosecutors argue that Ritter killed Doe to silence her.

The government claims that Ritter lied about his whereabouts during an interview with state police on the day of the murder. He then walked nervously to his uncle’s house, located approximately half a mile from the crime scene, and asked for a ride home. Prosecutors assert that Ritter enlisted others to help burn his clothes, hide the weapon, and mislead the police about his location. Ritter had been dividing his time between South Carolina, where he had a job and driver’s license, and New York, where he resided with family and was eventually arrested.

The prosecution plans to present witness testimony regarding Ritter’s location and text messages exchanged with Doe, in which he allegedly persuaded her to take the fatal ride. Additional evidence includes video footage from a traffic stop on the day of Doe’s death, showing Ritter’s distinctive left wrist tattoo in the passenger seat of her car. DNA from the woman’s car and testimony from multiple individuals who claim Ritter privately confessed to them about the shooting will also be presented.

Ritter’s defense attorneys emphasize that the trial focuses on whether Ritter killed Doe, not their sexual relationship. They argue that no physical evidence directly links Ritter to the crime. The defense highlights that the State Law Enforcement Division did not process a gunshot residue test that Ritter voluntarily took on the day of the killing. They suggest that Ritter’s connection to Doe’s car is unsurprising given their intimate ties. The defense also questions the consistency of witnesses’ claims regarding the disposal of evidence.

Author: CrimeDoor

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