Why Is DOJ Lawyer Aiding Iowa In Black Transgender Murder Case?

Cheryl Sanders
October 16, 2017

However, Trump's Attorney General Jeff Sessions has intervened in the case - putting out a release declaring that he would pursue hate crime charges federally.

The case involves Kedarie Johnson, a 16-year-old high school student in Burlington, Iowa, who was shot to death in March 2016.

Sessions since becoming attorney general has said transgender people are not protected under federal law from discrimination in the workplace.


"We have and will continue to enforce hate crime laws aggressively and appropriately where transgendered individuals are victims", Sessions said. Sessions ordered the department's top civil rights lawyers to review the cases, and at a Justice Department summit in June he vowed to take action - though when he was in the Senate he voted against making it a federal crime to attack someone for their gender identity. In January, two men, Jaron Purham and Jorge Sanders-Galvez, were charged with first-degrree murder.

The Iowa murder trial is set to begin October 24 in Henry County District Court in Mount Pleasant.

But other more liberal-leaning LGBTQ groups accused Sessions of hypocrisy for trying to tout his commitment to enforcing LGBTQ-inclusive hate crimes laws even as he's made other moves widely seen as hostile to the LGBTQ community. Sessions has repeatedly criticized the LGBTQ movement, and his Justice Department has defended employers who discriminate against their queer employees multiple times in the past.


But Vanita Gupta, the president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the head of the Justice Department's civil rights division in the Obama administration, surmised that the administration likely draws lines between discrimination and death. "Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009, Log Cabin Republicans commends the Justice Department for understanding the crisis of violence against transgender Americans and their responsibility to hold perpetrators of anti-LGBT animus accountable", Angelo added. He publicly supported a case brought in the final weeks of the Obama administration in which a MS man was sentenced to 49 years in prison for killing a transgender woman, the first USA federal prosecution of a hate crime based on gender identity. "But it is the height of cynicism for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to use this - frankly rare - instance of civil rights enforcement under his tenure to deflect from the current department's sustained opposition to its historic mission".

He has similarly undermined the civil rights and safety of people of color, through such actions as his order to review all consent decrees created to address systemic police violence.


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