Why this man pleaded innocent after killing a transgender woman is frustrating.
Imagine that a 21-year-old woman is beaten by a complete stranger as she’s walking home.
Imagine that she dies days later in the hospital.
Imagine that the man who attacked her admits he was the one who did it.
And now imagine that, when asked how he pleads, the man answers, “Not guilty.”
This is not a hypothetical story.
This is the story of how Islan Nettles died and how her attacker tried to use one of the most vile defenses imaginable to get away with it.
Just four days before Dixon killed Nettles, the American Bar Association came out very publicly against “gay panic” and “trans panic” defenses.
In a resolution, the American Bar Association offered guidance to governments looking to ensure fairness in trial and sentencing of people who commit violent crimes against LGBT individuals.
“The American Bar Association urges federal, tribal, state, local and territorial governments to take legislative action to curtail the availability and effectiveness of the gay panic and trans panic defenses, which seek to partially or completely excuse crimes such as murder and assault on the grounds that the victims sexual orientation or gender identity is to blame for the defendants violent reaction.”
Specifically, the ABA recommended that governments require courts to instruct juries not to let bias on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity affect their judgement and for these states to specify in law that “neither a non-violent sexual advance, nor the discovery of a person’s sex or gender identity, constitutes legally adequate provocation to mitigate the crime of murder to manslaughter.”
So far, one state has followed the ABA’s recommendations: California. Had New York done the same, it’s possible Dixon would have been tried for murder instead of manslaughter.
In September 2014, California Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 2501 into law, which states being provoked into a violent act is “not objectively reasonable if it resulted from the discovery of, knowledge about, or potential disclosure of the victim’s actual or perceived gender, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation.”
In other words, in California, you can’t kill someone because they’re gay or trans and then use that fact as an excuse for your actions. Simple enough, right?