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Transgender woman pleads guilty to lesser charge in murder case

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — A transgender woman has pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter in the killing of a man who witnesses claimed incited the attack using racist and transphobic slurs.

Friends and supporters say that Chrishaun “CeCe” McDonald, 23, is the real victim in the case, and that she was targeted because of her race and gender.

CeCe McDonald

As a jury was being seated for her trial Wednesday, McDonald agreed to a deal that convicted her of a reduced charge of manslaughter, rather than murder, in the fatal stabbing of Dean Schmitz, 47, outside a Minneapolis bar last year.

According to reports, on the night of June 5, 2011, McDonald was walking with a group of friends past a local bar where Schmitz and others were outside smoking. Hennepin County prosecutors said that words were exchanged, a fight broke out and McDonald stabbed Schmitz in the chest with a pair of scissors.

McDonald — who was reportedly transitioning at the time — said she pulled out the pair of scissors in an attempt to defend herself after the group hurled a glass at her face, and taunted her and her friends with racist epithets, and anti-gay and transphobic slurs, including including “faggots,” “niggers” and “chicks with dicks.”

Schmitz died at the scene from a stab wound to his chest.

In a videotaped interview with police, McDonald claimed that she took out scissors to scare Schmitz, but he “ran into them.” McDonald later denied stabbing Schmitz, then switched to say she acted in self-defense.

McDonald’s case has attracted national attention, with many viewing McDonald’s actions self-defense.

Dozens of her supporters, clad in purple, attended McDonald’s hearings, and claim she is being punished simply for surviving the attack.

Supporters also argue that the case illustrates the criminal justice system’s institutional biases toward the sexual orientation, gender identity and race.

Minneapolis City Council member Cam Gordon is among McDonald’s supporters, and wrote on his blog that he believes McDonald was targeted for her race and gender.

“It appears that CeCe was the victim of a hate crime that involved many people but she was the only person held by the police.” Gordon wrote. “Here is another example transgender women of color being targeted for hate- and bias-related violence. It is unfortunate that in this case, as in so many, the hate crime itself appears to have been ignored.”

Chuck Laszewski, a spokesman for the county attorney’s office, said McDonald will be sentenced June 4, most likely to three years and five months in prison. She was being held Wednesday evening in the Hennepin County Jail.

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Filed under: Minnesota

12 more reader comments:

  1. she must have had a terrible attorney to convince her to do that

    Posted on Wednesday, May 2, 2012 at 10:38pm
  2. he attacked her he should get punished not her

    Posted on Wednesday, May 2, 2012 at 10:48pm
  3. She will come back to court to correct the plea

    Posted on Wednesday, May 2, 2012 at 11:02pm
  4. If everyone wants equality for transgender people as well, they should take that out of the equation and she should be charged the same way a black woman would be. She killed a man and they have no evidence that he lashed out at her other than her words. If you are more lienient towards her because she is transgender then that is excusing her from the law the rest of us answer to.

    Posted on Wednesday, May 2, 2012 at 11:11pm
  5. I wonder which jail are they gona put him in…bc his dna says one thing but his outward appearence says another…

    Posted on Wednesday, May 2, 2012 at 11:32pm
  6. King, it’s HER, you cissexist piece of shit.

    Posted on Thursday, May 3, 2012 at 12:18am
  7. Hillary, gee, I don’t know, maybe her own face being cut open and the swatstika tattoo and history of violence that he had is pretty clear evidence?

    Posted on Thursday, May 3, 2012 at 12:19am
  8. Though the incident itself involved homophobia/racism/genderism (sorry, I’m not up on the terms,) the plea in this case may have more to do with Minnesota law than the case particulars. In many states, self defense laws are sometimes bizarre and counter intuitive. If Minnesota or even just the city have laws in place dictating course of action in a fight or flight scenario, while weighing levels of force used (which can also be codified and strange on their own) a plea like this in a case involving deadly force may have legitimately been the optimum option.

    Posted on Thursday, May 3, 2012 at 12:27am
  9. Except either the law, or the DA is okay with self defense, as similar cases have been dismissed on the same grounds. Trust me, I’ve been following this case for a while – unlike the rest of the fucking media, which can’t seem to give two shits about a trans person, much less a trans poc.

    Posted on Thursday, May 3, 2012 at 12:29am
  10. Can you site the cases? I’ve organized in both the twin cities as well as four other counties in Minnesota. One thing I know is their laws are almost as fucked in some cases as NY or Mass. Minnesota is a code state, unlike La or Mass and if a genuine case could be argued, the attorney would have been a fool not to. Having also been through enough criminal proceedings myself, I can also say that in code states cases are made or broken by the specifics and room for doubt. If the law obligated her to flee, or if the amount of force used could be argued to have been excessive, any attempt to argue for a not guilty verdict, versus the possibility of being found straight away guilty can easily make a plea to a lesser charge the safest of options.
    And as one who has refused and taken plea deals, its ultimately on the client to accept or reject the offer by the prosecution.

    Posted on Thursday, May 3, 2012 at 12:34am
  11. Finding the sources, berried in articles I read weeks ago, would take time, that I sadly don’t have as I write my paper. Of course, ultimately the precedent doesn’t matter, as if the law is so fucked that an oppressed victim acting in self defense is charged with murder, then the system needs to be FUCKING BROKEN AND REPLACED.

    Posted on Thursday, May 3, 2012 at 12:40am
  12. Case precedent does matter though. If the situation could have been resolved without the death of one or more parties, it matters quite a great deal. Especially if the law dictates, as in many places, that law enforcement has a monopoly on a true “escalation of force” scenario. Thats an actual term btw. Essentially, many self defense laws state that a victim of a crime may use only as much force as is necessary to escape the imminent danger and may use deadly force only in a situation where no other alternative is available.
    I’m not talking shit here or trying to be a dick, but this is a homicide case FIRST and an identity politics matter second. I understand the emotional investment in such a matter that many will have and should this prove to be a legitimate case in which the defendant had NO choice but to end the deceased’s life, I would absolutely support a dropping of charges and an end to investigation and trial. However if council won a plea to 2nd degree when the charge was 1st, odds are good that for whatever reason, be it case precedent, the facts of the actual case or simply the available arguments and evidence and testimony available, the plea was the best option.

    Posted on Thursday, May 3, 2012 at 12:45am