“I believe that Newark should be a just community.”
I had the pleasure of sitting down with Mayor Cory A. Booker, one of the most popular politicos in the US. Our conversation focused on a topic that is often overshadowed, if not wholly ignored, within mainstream media outlets reporting on the Mayor’s tenure and issues of concern within the city of Newark, NJ
Newark has been cast into the national spotlight with its appearance in Sundance Channel’s documentary series, Brick City, and as the location where Mark Zuckerberg invested $100 million in educational reform from his Facebook fortune. Yet, there is much more to know about New Jersey’s largest city, especially as it relates to the many remarkable strides that have been made on behalf of the LGBTQ community in Newark.
The end of CeCe McDonald’s trial did not end the activism surrounding her case. Immediately after the announcement of the plea bargain, local activists began organizing a noise demonstration outside the jail, which took place at 10pm on Wednesday night. Nearly 300 activists marched around the jail that CeCe is housed in making enough noise so that she could hear the commotion from within the confines of the facility. The group also marched to the nearby juvenile detention center and back, under heavy police presence, but no one was arrested.
Guards know that they can’t give someone a black eye and then have four people come in to visit and witness that.
Local activists are in the process of regrouping after the close of the trial but organized actions are anticipated before the June 4th sentencing hearing, as well as on CeCe’s birthday on May 26th.
Activists who aren’t close enough to attend actions are being encouraged to write letters to the editor of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Dean Spade, legal scholar and founder of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, was in attendance today in Minneapolis at the CeCe McDonald trial. PrettyQueer was able to interview him hours after the announcement that she would be accepting the plea deal that will take her back to prison. Dean’s first-hand account is recorded below.
Tom Léger: Why don’t we start with what happened today in court.
Dean Spade: Yesterday was jury selection, and that hadn’t finished. They had only selected ten jurors by the end of yesterday. And then today, what was anticipated was that they would continue jury selection and begin the trial. I got here, along with the support team, at around 8:30 in the morning and we waited in the hallway.
I have never worked with any trans woman locked up who is in a women’s facility. Trans women are in men’s facilities all across the US facing enormous violence.
At about 11:30 or 11:45, they brought folks in and it was to do a plea deal. They did not continue jury selection. Basically what that means is that CeCe took the stand and her lawyer went through with her the facts of the evening she was attacked, and then the prosecutor and judge asked her a few questions and she pled guilty.
The plea deal is second degree manslaughter and a sentence of forty-one months. All of the time that she has served since last June will be counted, and also people here anticipate about one-third of the sentence will be given as “good time,” so she’ll probably serve about twenty-one months or twenty months.
Mara Keisling, the founder and executive director of the National Center Transgender Equality, spoke to PrettyQueer this morning about her experience at day one of the CeCe McDonald trial. Approximately 100 people came out to the Hennepin County Courthouse and, due to limited seating in the courtroom, many were forced to wait in the hallway. The start of McDonald’s trial coincided with the widely publicized trial of Amy Senser, the wife of former Minnesota Vikings tight end, Joe Senser. The hit-and-run case has drawn national media attention, particularly on Monday, when Senser was scheduled to testify for the first time. Keisling indicated that the presence of the national press may have given CeCe’s supporters a false sense that overdue attention was finally being paid to the case, but that the mood in the courthouse remained optimistic and upbeat.
From Leslie Feinberg’s visit with CeCe last night, April 30th 2012.
Motions Still Pending
The two crucial outstanding motions that judge Daniel C. Moreno has yet to rule on are still unanswered at the end of Day 1 of the CeCe McDonald trial. Supporters are still waiting for a decision on the motion to admit into evidence the swastika tattoo of Dean Schmitz, the 47-year old who died after the altercation on June 5, 2011. The defense motion to present this information to the jury could assist in making the case of self defense by showing the state of mind of Mr. Schmitz at the time of his attack on Ms. McDonald. It was announced that Mr. Moreno has decided on this motion but that the ruling has not yet been made public. It is expected to be announced on Tuesday morning.
Also pending is the defense motion to present an expert witness to testify to the “climate of violence” experienced by transgender people. Hersch Isek, the attorney for the defense had previously proposed OutFront Minnesota’s Anti-Violence Program Director Rebecca Waggoner at an earlier hearing, and has now offered an additional expert witness, clinical psychologist Dr. Cesar A. Gonzalez, Ph.D, a research associate at the Program in Human Sexuality at the University of Minnesota. It is thought that Mr. Moreno is reviewing the credentials of Dr. Gonzalez overnight and will rule on this motion on Tuesday as well.
The judge presiding over the CeCe McDonald case, Daniel C. Moreno, has worked in the legal system for nearly 25 years, and much of his career has been devoted to public service and improving the lives of people of color in Minnesota.
According to Mr. Moreno’s official biography and an article published soon after he was appointed to the bench in 2006, Mr. Moreno’s prior career included 15 years as an Assistant Public Defender with the Hennepin County Public Defender’s Office, where he was also an intern and Law Clerk for several years during law school.
Mr. Moreno’s parents immigrated from Mexico in the late 1950s and eventually raised Mr. Moreno and his siblings in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, a vacation hamlet roughly equidistant from Milwaukee and Chicago. His father worked in construction and his mother in a factory, and Mr. Moreno’s jobs prior to law school included a meat-packing plant and construction work.
The trial for trans woman CeCe McDonald officially began today at 9am in Minneapolis. We will be doing our best to follow the case closely and post updates here on PrettyQueer. If you have additional items to report, email email@example.com or tweet us @prettyqueer.
I grew up in Camden, New Jersey, during a time, not unlike the present, when it was well known as one of the state’s and country’s most economically deprived, criminally devastated urban spaces. Poverty was felt and seen. Friends were murdered before the celebration of their eighteenth birthdays. Hopelessness was evidenced on streets where homes sat abandoned along trash-lined streets. And, despite all of this, I was carefully and lovingly nurtured by a young mother who sought to protect her quirky son from the staunch realities of life growing up in a troubled urban space that we both loved and called home.
I considered why it was that they would be so determined to set me on fire.
My mother was a victim of intimate partner violence. My father, who was fifteen when I was born, seemed to know more about hurt than love. And, he demonstrated that knowledge through his actions.
The first time I tried to end my life my father had just finished brutally beating my mother. I felt horrified, angry and helpless. While I do not remember the specifics of that particular attack, I do remember my response. Eleven years of life, or so, had begun to feel like an eternity of pain and I wanted out quickly. So, I moved toward the window in the small bedroom that I shared with my three younger sisters and with mournful tears in my eyes announced that I was about to jump. I thought that my leap would distract my father long enough to stop him from punching my mom in her face and would be cause for my other family member’s intervention in a common occurrence that was wreaking havoc on all of our lives.
Chrishaun “CeCe” McDonald is a young African American trans woman currently being charged with two counts of second degree murder following an incident on June 5th, 2011. Her case has drawn international attention and sparked a groundswell of community support. CeCe spoke to PrettyQueer on December 12th.
You can also sign the petition to free her.
PQ: I first met you back in 2008 when you were screening Black Womyn Conversations at Zami at the New School and if I remember correctly that film was a real labor of love that took like 7 years or something –
TM: Yeah, 6 years. Yeah, yeah.
PQ: Can you talk about how that project came about and what that process was like?
TM: It was the project that I wanted to make once I realized or had access to the tools to actually make it. Because I knew I wanted to be a filmmaker but I didn’t know exactly how to make films. I came from South Carolina, didn’t have access to any kind of video camera or anything like that. The first time I really even put hands on a video camera was when I was in college. So the idea really was kind of like a organic thing – oh this is what I’m gonna do once I get the tools – but I was thinking about my own experience because I wasn’t too far from it.