Editors Note: Pam Daniels is a writer and activist with 26 years experience in broadcast news and media including the staff of a former Governor. She serves on the Board of Directors of Garden State Equality and is a member of the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) as well as the Gender Rights Advocacy Association of New Jersey (GRAANJ).
Ms. White underwent reassignment surgery 10 years before her assassin fired 3 bullets into her 28-year-old body. Her killer suspected she was once a male, so he murdered her.
This story describes how fear and intimidation and bullying in a courtroom can lead to a killer going free. Victoria Carmen White's story hasn't ended with her vicious murder or the acquittal of her accused murderer.
I remember the Transgender Day Of Remembrance ceremonies at Princeton University's non-denominational chapel in 2010 and 2011 like they were yesterday. In 2010, 2 months after Victoria Carmen White was shot to death in Maplewood, New Jersey, attendees couldn't believe a murder like this could still happen in our state. The reality of Ms. White's murder made an already very solemn service even more somber.
I came out 18 months earlier. Suddenly the depth, breadth, and potential expanse of the bigotry against transgendered people became very real to me.
In November of 2011 attendees at Princeton University's TDOR service were angry. We were angry that Victoria Carmen White's murderer had not been brought to justice. When the news spread last month that her killer had been acquitted of the murder charge and all other lesser offenses I can safely say LGBT activists from High Point to Cape May were livid.
Steven Goldstein, founder and Chairman of Garden State Equality along with his Co-Chair, Luanne Peterpaul sprang into action and arranged a meeting with the Essex County Prosecutor. (Essex County New Jersey Prosecutor Carolyn Murray "gets it.")
Steven and Luanne reached out to Babs Siperstein and the rest of us in GRAANJ. Many of us are also very active in GSE.
When Babs and I arrived together for this meeting we were pleasantly dumbfounded. Prosecutor Murray had 7 members of her staff with her who worked on the case waiting to meet us.
Ms. Murray and her awesome staff took the time to "walk us through" their entire investigation, as well as the murder trial itself. None of our very detailed questions went unanswered. All of our questions were answered to our complete satisfaction. Ms. Murray and all of the members of her staff told Steven, Luanne, Babs and myself that they were convinced they prosecuted the correct suspect. Steven, Luanne, Babs and myself absolutely agree.
What impressed us the most was Ms. Murray's and her staff's genuine desire to learn more and understand what transgender people live through day to day.
Victoria Carmen White's acquitted killer is likely strutting the streets of his neighborhood bragging that he beat a murder rap. (I'll come back to that.)
So how did Ms. White's accused and acquitted murderer walk? They used fear and intimidation during the murder trial itself. The key prosecutor's witness changed their testimony from their original testimony at the grand jury trial. Why? Because on that day the courtroom was suddenly packed with many known, nefarious associates of the accused murderer. The prosecution got the message loud and clear. The message was fear and intimidation. So prosecution's witness was afraid to go home and face these people if they told the truth.
Many of these nefarious individuals were arrested on outstanding warrants before they sat for the testimony of this key prosecution witness. Enough of them got into the trial proceedings the day this witness testified and the effect was obvious, the witness was scared enough to change their testimony just enough to leave reasonable doubt in the minds of the jurors. The defense attorney leveraged the change testimony throughout the trial to win acquittal on all counts -- including murder.
The great New York Yankees Baseball catcher Yogi Berra said it best, "It ain't over 'til it's over!"
It ain't over for Victoria Carmen White's accused and acquitted murderer either.
Federal prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney's Office in Newark and the FBI must investigate this case further! Victoria Carmen White's accused and acquitted murderer may have beaten the state murder rap but federal civil rights charges and federal hate crime charges still apply.
This accused and acquitted murderer must constantly look over his shoulder for the rest of his life because some day, somewhere, when he's least expecting it, he will face justice. Remember, members of the KKK who beat state murder charges for killing civil rights activist's decades ago were eventually arrested, prosecuted, and jailed for their crimes under federal laws.