Columbia, S.C.— A man from South Carolina has been convicted of the murder of Dime Doe, a Black transgender woman. Doe was 24 when she was killed in 2019. This is the first federal hate crime trial regarding gender identity.  

Defendant Daqau Ritter was found guilty of the murder as well as subsequent charges of obscuring justice and deadly use of a firearm. The trial ended on Feb 23, after hours of jury deliberation. 

The Trial

Witnesses say that Doe and Ritter were in a sexual relationship. Doe first began her gender transition journey at the age of 20. She lived in Allendale, South Carolina where she worked as a hairdresser. 

Ritter, who was living in New York City, would travel to South Carolina to visit with his grandmother. This is when he met and formed a relationship with Doe. Court documents say that Ritter wanted to keep the relationship a secret from the community because of her gender identity.

After talk about the nature of their relationship began to spread, Ritter became angry. Prosecutors say that Doe publicized her involvement with Ritter and word got back to his friends. Subsequently, his friends teased him over Doe’s gender identity, leading to Ritter threatening Doe. 

Court documents reveal that authorities pulled over Ritter with Doe in the car hours before they found Doe’s body.Ritter was easily identifiable in the bodycam footage due to tattoos and a scar on his arm.

Ritter then lured Doe to a desolate area where he shot her three times in the head. He then destroyed evidence by disposing of his clothes and the murder weapon. 

Brook Andrews, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the South Carolina District, spoke to the press following the verdict.

“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,” Andrews stated. 

The court has not scheduled sentencing, but Ritter potentially faces a life sentence without the possibility of parole. 

Previous Hate Crimes against Transwomen

In 2016, Joshua Vallum pleaded guilty to the murder of 17- year-old Mercedes Williamson. The incident is strikingly similar to the murder of Dime Doe. 

Williamson was a transwoman from Mississippi who was previously in a relationship with her murderer. The pair ended their relationship and had no contact with one another until 2015. In May 2015, Vallum plotted to kill Williamson once word had spread that Williamson was transgender. Vallum also attempted to dispose of evidence and even went as far as to blame law enforcement for the murder. 

After pleading guilty, the court sentenced him to 49 years in prison. Because Vallum took a plea deal, the case did not go to trial. 

Related Stories

Disproportionate Violence

According to a 2021 study from the Williams Institute at UCLA, transgender people are four times as likely to be victims of violence than cisgender people. This includes simple assault, rape, and sexual assault. 

Human Rights Campaign conducted a report in 2023 that outlines what type of violence is experienced and who is most impacted. Between 2013 and 2023 there have been 335 trans and gender non-conforming people in the United States who have died due to violence. Roughly 85% of victims of violence were people of color and 63% of fatal cases were Black transgender women. 

In an FBI crime statistics report there was a reported 32.9% increase in hate crimes based on gender identity in 2022. 

Intersection of Race and Sexual/Gender Identity

Pew Research has a comprehensive report on the intersection of race and LGBT identities. The majority of Black Americans say they experience discrimination based on their race. Black people who are also a part of the LGBTQIA+ community face even more discrimination. Roughly 1.4% of Black Americans identify as transgender or non-binary. 

In a study from American Progress, LGBT people of color report discrimination at a higher level than white respondents. Most of the discrimination takes place in public spaces as opposed to the workplace, school, or interactions with law enforcement. 

There is a stigma that persists in the Black community around gender identity. In the Pew study, 68% of Black respondents believe that the sex assigned at birth determines gender. This is slightly higher than the 60% of all U.S. adults. However, the sentiment is more common among right-leaning and church-going Black Americans.

To seek mental health support, call Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text START to 678-678, or call the LGBT Hotline 888-843-4564.

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