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Man guilty in Black transgender woman's killing in 1st federal hate crime trial over gender identity

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A South Carolina man was found guilty Friday of killing a Black transgender woman in the nation’s first federal trial over an alleged hate crime based on gender identity.
In this image undated selfie provided courtesy of the Dime Doe family, shows Dime Doe, a Black transgender woman. Doe's August 2019 death is now the subject of a first-of-its-kind federal hate crimes trial that began this week in Columbia, S.C. (Courtesy Dime Doe Family via AP)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A South Carolina man was found guilty Friday of killing a Black transgender woman in the nation’s first federal trial over an alleged hate crime based on gender identity.

Jurors decided that Daqua Lameek Ritter fatally shot Dime Doe three times Aug. 4, 2019, because of her gender identity. Ritter was also convicted of using a firearm in connection with the crime and obstructing justice.

The four-day trial centered on the secret sexual relationship between Doe and Ritter, who had grown agitated in the weeks preceding the killing by the exposure of their affair in the small town of Allendale, South Carolina, according to witness testimony and text messages obtained by the FBI.

“This case stands as a testament to our committed effort to fight violence that is targeted against those who may identify as a member of the opposite sex, for their sexual orientation or for any other protected characteristics,” Brook Andrews, an assistant U.S. attorney for the District of South Carolina, told reporters after the verdict.

There have been hate crime prosecutions based on gender identity in the past, but none of them reached trial. A Mississippi man received a 49-year prison sentence in 2017 as part of a plea deal after he admitted to killing a 17-year-old transgender woman.

In the trial over Doe's kiling, the Department of Justice presented text exchanges between the pair that they said showed Ritter trying to dispel gossip about the relationship in the weeks preceding Doe’s death. He subsequently kept tabs on the investigation while giving coy responses to questions from Delasia Green, his main girlfriend’ at the time, according to trial testimony.

Texts obtained by the FBI suggested that Ritter sought to keep his connection with Doe under wraps as much as possible, prosecutors argued. He reminded her to delete their communications from her phone, and hundreds of texts sent in the month before her death were removed.

Shortly before Doe’s death, the text messages started getting tense. In a July 29, 2019, message, she complained that Ritter did not reciprocate her generosity. He replied that he thought they had an understanding that she didn’t need the “extra stuff.”

He also told her that Green had insulted him with a homophobic slur. In a July 31 text, Doe said she felt used and that Ritter should never have let his girlfriend find out about them.

Ritter’s defense attorneys said the sampling of messages introduced by the prosecution represented only a “snapshot” of their exchanges. They pointed to a July 18 message in which Doe encouraged Ritter, and another exchange where Ritter thanked Doe for one of her many kindnesses.

But witnesses offered other damaging testimony against Ritter.

Green said that when he showed up days after the killing at her cousin’s house in Columbia, he was dirty, smelly and couldn’t stop pacing. Her cousin’s boyfriend gave Ritter a ride to the bus stop. Before he left, Green asked him if he had killed Doe.

“He dropped his head and gave me a little smirk,” Green said.


Pollard is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

James Pollard, The Associated Press