The Lateisha Green Trial: Sentencing Blog Post
This is TLDEF legal intern Laura Vogel writing for the last time from Syracuse, New York, where TLDEF Executive Director Michael Silverman and I are on the ground at the Lateisha Green trial for the sentencing of Dwight DeLee. On July 17, 2009, a 12-member jury found 20-year-old DeLee guilty of manslaughter in the first degree as a hate crime and criminal possession of a weapon. Today, we returned to the Onondaga County courthouse in Syracuse, New York for DeLee’s sentencing.
The Sentencing Begins
At 9:00 am Dwight DeLee was brought into Judge Walsh’s court. In contrast to the trial, DeLee now wore a prison uniform and shackles. Judge Walsh stated that DeLee was convicted of manslaughter in the first degree as a hate crime and criminal possession of a weapon. Judge Walsh also stated that DeLee is a “predicate felon,” as he has previously been convicted of a felony. DeLee did not contest these facts.
Defense counsel then reminded the court of DeLee’s motion seeking to overturn the jury’s verdict as inconsistent. He argued that the conviction of DeLee for manslaughter in the first degree as a hate crime, but not for manslaughter in the first degree, was inconsistent. He stated that when making a determination regarding the consistency of this verdict, one must not consult the jurors regarding their reasoning, but rely solely upon Judge Walsh’s instructions to the jury. Defense counsel also reminded the court of his earlier motion asserting that the hate crime statute is unconstitutional [link].
ADA Doren argued that the hate crime statute is, in fact, constitutional, which Judge Walsh determined to be the case at a pre-trial hearing. ADA Doren also argued that the jury’s verdict is consistent, whether one assesses the verdict based upon the jurors’ reasoning or by relying upon Judge Walsh’s jury instructions alone.
Judge Walsh ruled in favor of the prosecution on both of these matters, stating that the hate crimes statute is constitutional and that the jury’s verdict was, in fact, consistent.
Roxanne Green’s Statement
After Judge Walsh ruled on the defense motions, he gave Lateisha’s mother Roxanne Green the opportunity to address Dwight DeLee and the court regarding the impact that this crime has had upon her family. Roxanne stood with the support of Lateisha’s father, Albert Cannon, as she spoke to DeLee and to the court.
Roxanne looked straight at DeLee and spoke about her feelings. She said that DeLee chose to take Lateisha’s life simply because of who Teish was, and reminded DeLee that her family still suffers from losing Lateisha. Roxanne closed by telling DeLee, “Every time you close your eyes, I hope you see her.” Finally, Roxanne expressed her hope that others will learn from this tragedy so that no one else experiences the pain that she and her family have had to endure.
After Roxanne spoke, ADA Doren stated that DeLee’s act was a “sad and senseless intentional tragedy,” and thus respectfully requested that Judge Walsh sentence DeLee to the maximum period allowed by law.
Defense counsel declined to argue the facts of the case, but did mention that the Green/Cannon family had discussed getting an order of protection against DeLee and his family. Judge Walsh immediately responded to defense counsel’s concern by stating that he would only sentence DeLee for the crimes for which he has been convicted.
For the first time ever, Dwight DeLee addressed the court and gallery. He spoke loudly and clearly. DeLee began by thanking his lawyer for his hard work throughout the trial and those in the gallery, regardless of their allegiances, for their patience. Next, DeLee expressed his condolences to the Green/Cannon family for their loss and expressed “tremendous sadness” for Lateisha’s death. He also apologized to his own family for the stress that the trial has caused them.
DeLee requested that the court not be swayed by the media coverage of the crime and the trial; he said that several individuals have spoken through the media and have asserted their own ideas regarding his guilt, which he claimed are not factually accurate. DeLee insisted upon his innocence, and mentioned that the investigation was rushed and that he believed that the DNA evidence exonerated him.
DeLee praised Judge Walsh’s clear jury instructions and asserted that the jury’s verdict was inconsistent, as they found him guilty of manslaughter in the first degree as a hate crime but not guilty of manslaughter in the first degree.
On a personal note, DeLee said, “I’m no monster,” and described himself as a young man with no hatred towards gay people, mentioning that he has gay family members who he loves very much. He stated that one life had already been taken because of violence and reckless thinking, and he again asserted that the opinions expressed in the media had swayed people against him. He concluded by requesting that the police investigate crimes fully before they judge guilt or innocence.
Immediately after DeLee concluded his statement to the court, Judge Walsh sentenced DeLee to an indeterminate sentence of three and a half to seven years for criminal possession of a weapon, to run concurrently with a determinate sentence of twenty five years with five additional years of post-release parole for the crime of manslaughter in the first degree as a hate crime. This was the maximum sentence allowed by law for DeLee’s crimes. Judge Walsh also assessed a $325 court fee and a $50 DNA database fee to the defendant.
After the sentencing, Lateisha's family gave a statement to the press. They said that they are pleased that the judge imposed the maximum sentence, but that nothing can ease the pain of their loss. They said that they are hopeful that laws to specifically protect transgender people will be passed on the local, state, and federal levels very soon.
Here are some photos I took after the sentencing:
Filming a Documentary
Later, TLDEF Executive Director Michael Silverman and GLAAD Senior Media Strategist Andy Marra met with a team of documentary filmmakers. The team is currently in the process of filming interviews that will be included in a documentary about Lateisha Green, her family, her death, and the trial of Dwight DeLee.
Here are some photos I took during the filming of the documentary:
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