The trial of Bridges "Sutton" McRae, the former Memphis Police Officer charged with beating Duanna Johnson in February of 2008, ended in mistrial today. All but one of the twelve jurors voted to convict McRae. The dissenting juror did not believe the prosecution had proven that McRae had acted "willfully." All twelve jurors had to agree that Duanna's civil rights had been violated to convict McRae.
The trial result is disappointing to say the least. We can try to take comfort in the fact that eleven out of twelve jurors agreed with the evidence. McRae hurled transphobic and homophobic slurs at Duanna and was then captured on camera beating her senseless. Five witnesses testified that McRae's attack was unprovoked. It's unfortunate that Duanna herself was not here to give her testimony in person (she was killed in the street in late 2008 in a still unsolved and open investigation). Would the result have been different?
The prosecution has the option of retrying the case. Both sides interviewed jurors after the outcome today to learn what worked and what didn't work. Today's result will not be the last word. Justice is still possible.
Hope still lives and we must tend the flames of that hope so that Duanna's brave pursuit of justice was not in vain. On Tuesday night, the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center's Raise Your Voice committee will hold a vigil in Duanna's memory at 6:30 PM at Civic Center Plaza in downtown Memphis. We must speak for Duanna and the untold numbers of other transgender persons who suffer violence in our community. We must raise our voices so that our city is not defined by the fear and ignorance that led to Duanna's assault.
Some candles will be provided, but supplies are limited. Bring a candle from home and bring friends and loved ones. Let's show this city and the world that Memphis must become a place that welcomes and protects all its people.
- Jonathan Cole
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