Deleted texts helped convince jurors man killed trans woman because of gender ID, foreperson says - Hindustan Times
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Deleted texts helped convince jurors man killed trans woman because of gender ID, foreperson says

AP |
Feb 27, 2024 03:33 AM IST

Deleted texts helped convince jurors man killed trans woman because of gender ID, foreperson says

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — When jurors first began weighing the fate of a man charged with murdering the transgender woman he’d been seeing secretly, they had little problem concluding that he fired the gun, the jury foreperson said.

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The most difficult task was determining that he was driven by hate, as the Department of Justice alleged, Dee Elder, a transgender woman from Aiken, South Carolina, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

“Motive is just a harder thing to prove,” Elder said. “How do you look between someone’s ears?”

Elder reached out to the AP after she and 11 other jurors found Daqua Ritter guilty of shooting Dime Doe three times on Aug. 4, 2019, because of her gender identity, bringing to an end the first federal trial over a bias-motivated crime of that sort.

Familiar with the difficulties presented by society for transgender people, Elder, 41, said she was compelled to discuss the case given its historic nature.

“We are everywhere. If one of us goes down, there’ll be another one of us on the jury,” she said. “And we’ve always been here. We’re just now letting ourselves be known.”

To prove the hate crime element during the trial, the Department of Justice relied heavily on arguments that Ritter feared he'd be ridiculed if the relationship became public knowledge in the rural South Carolina community of Allendale.

Jurors quickly reached a consensus on the charge that Ritter obstructed justice by lying to investigators, Elder said, and they also felt comfortable concluding that Ritter was the one who killed Doe.

But Elder said that determining the reason for committing the crime is “what took four hours.”

Hundreds of text messages between the pair, later obtained by the FBI, proved key to the conviction, she said. In many of them, Ritter repeatedly reminded Doe to delete their communications from her phone. The majority of the texts sent in the month before the killing were deleted, according to one FBI official’s testimony. Ritter often communicated through an app called TextNow, which provides users with a phone number that is different from their cellphone number, officials testified.

In a July 29, 2019, message, Doe complained that Ritter never reciprocated the generosity she showed him through such favors as driving him around town. Ritter replied that he thought they had an understanding that she didn't need the “extra stuff.”

In another text, Ritter — who visited Allendale from New York in the summers — complained that his main girlfriend at the time, Delasia Green, had insulted him with a homophobic slur after learning of his affair with Doe. At trial, Green testified that Ritter told her not to question his sexuality when she confronted him. Doe told Ritter in a message on July 31 that she felt used and that he never should have let Green find out about them.

The exchanges showed that Ritter “was using this poor girl” and “taking advantage” of their connection, Elder said.

"When she had the nerve to be happy about it and wanted to share it with her friends, he got nervous and scared that others would find out, and put an end to it," she added.

Elder said she hadn't even heard about Doe's death until jury selection, something that surprised her as a regular consumer of transgender-related news. Elder believes she was the only transgender person on the panel.

Without going into detail, she added that she understands firsthand the real-world harm caused by the stigma still attached to being a transgender person.

“In my personal experience, it can be dangerous for transgender women to date," Elder said.

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Pollard is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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