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Hate crime conviction in murder of transgender woman overturned

Hate crime conviction in murder of transgender woman overturned

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — An appeals court has overturned the hate crime conviction of a central New York man in the 2009 slaying of a transgender woman, ruling that jury verdicts in the case were contradictory.

The Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court noted in its July ruling that the jury mistakenly found that Dwight DeLee, 24, was guilty of manslaughter as a hate crime and not guilty of murder or manslaughter.

Dwight DeLee (left) and Lateisha Green.

In effect, the court said, the jury found DeLee not guilty of fatally shooting 22-year-old Lateisha Green outside a Syracuse house party in November 2008.

Four of the five justices said the trial judge should have pointed out that the verdicts were inconsistent with each other and sent the case back to jurors for further deliberation. But one dissenting justice said the conviction should stand because the jury clearly intended to convict DeLee of a hate crime.

Onondaga County Chief Assistant District Attorney James Max well said Thursday his office is asking the dissenting judge for permission to appeal to the state’s top court. He said DeLee can’t be tried again for manslaughter because of the earlier acquittal.

DeLee, who was serving a 25-year sentence for Green’s death, had previously been released on parole. His conviction for criminal possession of a weapon still stands.

Green began identifying herself as a woman at age 16. She frequently dressed in women’s clothing but was wearing jeans and a T-shirt the night she was killed. Several witnesses said they heard DeLee refer to Green as a “faggot” just before the shooting.

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At trial, DeLee was acquitted of murder as a hate crime but convicted of the lesser manslaughter hate crime. The jurors then moved on to a second count in the indictment and acquitted him of simple murder and manslaughter.

When defense lawyers asked the trial judge to vacate the conviction as “inconsistent,” the judge denied the request without explanation, according to court records.

Justice Erin Peradotto wrote in her dissent that the verdict should stand because it “reflects the jury’s determination that the shooting at issue was a hate crime … that the defendant intentionally selected the victim because of his sexual orientation.”

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