San Francisco Dems want DOJ to investigate CeCe McDonald case
Nearly three weeks since the end of the trial, San Francisco Democrats are entering the debate over Chrishaun "CeCe" McDonald, a transgender woman from Minneapolis who pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter.
CeCe McDonald pleaded guilty to a lesser charge earlier this month.
The city's Democratic Party passed a resolution last week calling McDonald's treatment by the courts unfair, and asking the Department of Justice to investigate.
McDonald, the subject of our May 9 cover story, "The Edge of Doubt," was originally charged with second-degree murder for stabbing Dean Alvin Schmitz in the heart with a pair of scissors outside the Schooner Tavern last summer.
Since her arrest, the case has been controversial. McDonald contests that she was the victim of an attack that night, and she acted only in self defense. Her supporters have long accused the court system of discriminating against her for being a black, transgender woman.
In past interviews with City Pages, Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman has denied that race or gender played into his decision to prosecute McDonald. "We see all kinds of crime by all sorts of people against all sorts of other people," says Freeman. "We try to review it as racially blind, as sexual-orientation blind, as economically blind as we can be. The scales of justice have got a blindfold on them for a reason, and we try to follow that."
McDonald pleaded to the lower charge on day three of the trial, and will spend 41 months in prison.
San Francisco Democrats say that the court threw out key evidence to McDonald's defense, and forced her into taking the "reduced but still unjust" plea deal. Among the evidence: a swastika tattooed on Schmitz's chest, and a lengthy criminal record that included assault convictions.
According to The Bay Area Reporter, all members of the party who were present voted in favor of the resolution.
Here's the text in full:
Resolution of the San Francisco Democratic Party Urging review by the U.S. Justice Department's
Civil Rights Division of Minnesota vs. Chrishaun Reed McDonald
WHEREAS, Chrishaun "CeCe" McDonald is an African American transgender woman who was targeted in a vicious racist and transphobic attack in Minneapolis, Minnesota on the night of June 5, 2011; who acting in self-defense with a pair of scissors from her purse fatally wounded one of her attackers; and who was subsequently charged by local prosecutors with second-degree murder, which carries a sentence of up to 40 years in prison; and
WHEREAS, CeCe McDonald faced a jury trial in which the court ruled against admitting key defense evidence such as: the swastika tattoo on her attacker's chest; her attacker's lengthy criminal record, including his prior convictions for assault and cocaine sales; and a toxicology expert's testimony on the effects that the methamphetamines, alcohol, and cocaine found in her attacker's system would likely have had to cause his violent behavior; and
WHEREAS, pleas for leniency and prosecutorial restraint by 14 national LGBT civil rights organizations--including GLAAD, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, NCLR, NGLTF, PFLAG, and the Transgender Law Center, all expressing concern that CeCe McDonald "could be facing discriminatory charges based on her transgender identity"--were ignored by local prosecutors; effectively forcing McDonald to agree on May 4, 2012 to a plea bargain for a 41-month prison sentence, instead of the possible 40-year maximum, for the reduced but still unjust charge of second-degree manslaughter; now therefore be it
RESOLVED, that the San Francisco Democratic Party concurs fully with the U.S. Justice Department's published position that "discrimination against transgender individuals is pervasive," and is strongly encouraged by the Department's recent statement that its "Civil Rights Division has been actively exploring ways in which the Department can use [federal] laws to address discrimination against transgender individuals"; and be it further
RESOLVED, that the San Francisco Democratic Party calls upon U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr.; Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Thomas E. Perez; and Civil Rights Division Appellate Section Chief Diana Flynn to immediately review the investigation and adjudication of State of Minnesota vs. Chrishaun Reed McDonald (Hennepin County Criminal Court Case No. 27-CR-11-16485) for possible violations of CeCe McDonald's civil rights, including due process, equal protection, and all other rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
Submitted by: Gabriel Haaland, Matt Dorsey, Leah Pimentel, Tom Ammiano, John Avalos, David Campos, Connie O'Connor, Petra DeJesus, Sandra Fewer, Leslie Katz, Hene Kelly, Rafael Mandelman, Jane Morrison, Aaron Peskin, Alix Rosenthal, Scott Weiner
Adopted by the SF Democratic County Committee on May 23, 2012