A South Carolina man is the first person to be convicted in a federal hate crime case based on gender identity.

Content warning: This story includes topics that could make some readers feel uncomfortable and/or upset.

“A unanimous jury has found the defendant guilty for the heinous and tragic murder of Dime Doe, a Black transgender woman,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, in an online press release.

On 24 February, after a four day trial in South Carolina, Daqua Lameek Ritter was found guilty on all charges including one hate crime count, one federal firearms count, one obstruction count and the murder of Dime.

Clarke continued: “The jury’s verdict sends a clear message: Black trans lives matter, bias-motivated violence will not be tolerated, and perpetrators of hate crimes will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

The statement flagged the “historic” nature of this case: “This defendant is the first to be found guilty by trial verdict for a hate crime motivated by gender identity under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.”

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This 2009 landmark piece of legislation allows federal criminal prosecution of hate crimes motivated by a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

“We want the Black trans community to know that you are seen and heard, that we stand with the LGBTQI+ community, and that we will use every tool available to seek justice for victims and their families,” Clarke explained.

Evidence presented at the trial showed that Ritter was “upset that rumours about his sexual relationship with Dime Doe were out in the community.” Prosecutors shared witness testimony and text messages that described the secret relationship.

Shortly before the murder “their exchanges grew tense” over text and when Ritter’s partner found out about the alleged affair she “insulted him with a homophobic slur”, according to Associated Press.

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The court heard that on 4 August 2019, Ritter lured Dime to a remote area in South Carolina and shot her three times in the head. He then burned his clothes, disposed of the murder weapon and “repeatedly lied to law enforcement”.

“Acts of violence against LGBTQI+ people, including transgender women of color like Dime Doe, are on the rise and have no place in our society,” said Acting Associate Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer.

“The Justice Department takes seriously all bias-motivated acts of violence and will not hesitate to hold accountable those who commit them. No one should have to live in fear of deadly violence because of who they are.”

Ritter has received a maximum penalty of a life sentence in prison. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled for a later date.