Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

Hate Crime Against MN Trans Woman Lands Her In Jail On Murder Charges

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | June 28, 2011 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: The Movement, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Chrishaun McDonald, hate crimes against LGBT people, Minneapolis

chrishaun_mcdonald.jpgEarly on the morning of June 5th, outside the Schooner Tavern on Lake Street, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Chrishaun McDonald was verbally assaulted with racial slurs, sexual harassment, and transphobic and sexist attacks.

When a larger brawl ensued, Ms. McDonald was hit in the face with a bottle. Her attacker ended up dead, and Ms. McDonald was taken to jail where she remains in solitary confinement.

She has been charged with second degree murder. Ms. McDonald maintains her innocence, citing self-defense: "They were the ones who attacked us. It was evil what they called us."

A press conference is to be held today at the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis, according to Katie Burgess, Executive Director of the Trans Youth Support Network.

From the press release:

Ms. McDonald is a transgender woman. In the weeks since June 5th, media coverage and prosecutors have consistently referred to Ms. McDonald with incorrect (male) pronouns. Because Ms. McDonald is being held in a gender-segregated jail, the potential for abuse and mistreatment is high. In a phone interview from jail, Ms. McDonald described the treatment she's receiving in solitary confinement: "They've got me in the hole, and they're not giving me proper healthcare."

According to Katie Burgess, Executive Director of the Trans Youth Support Network and a friend of Ms. McDonald's, "Chrishaun McDonald's case is a tragedy, but unfortunately it's not a rarity. Transgender women of color face disproportionate levels of violence and harassment, and are pulled into prisons and jails at extremely high rates. Over 30% of trans women of color are incarcerated every year. Once in prison or jail, 38% are harassed, 15% are physically assaulted, and 7% are sexually assaulted. These violent abuses are enacted upon them by guards and fellow prisoners. Although none of us knows all the details about what happened on June 5th, we do know that the deck is stacked against Ms. McDonald, and we ask concerned community members to support her in her trial."

Friends who have spoken with Ms. McDonald say she remains hopeful and committed to fighting for justice in her case. But she has deep concerns that because she is a transgender woman of color she is unlikely to receive a fair trial with a jury of her peers, especially because she doesn't have the funds to hire her own legal counsel. When asked about her trial, Ms. McDonald said, "Everybody should just be treated like human beings, no matter who they are."

Here's more details from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and an editorial about the justice system's treatment of Ms. McDonald from the Twin Cities Daily Planet

Ways to help:
Facebook: Pack the Courtroom June 28th
Facebook: Community Meeting June 29th
Donate Online to her Legal Defense Fund


Leave a comment

We want to know your opinion on this issue! While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.

It sounds like she is getting a bad deal hopefully her face wasn't permanently scared by the bottle and she can get a good attorney.I'm beginning to regret not changing my last name it seems like everytime I see it in the media lately its attached to something negative. Chriisy Polis and now this.

I'm glad the press release acknowledges that even though we don't know exactly what happened regarding the death, it's important to recognize that "the deck is stacked against" McDonald. This sounds like an awful situation and I very much hope that the mistreatment will end.

Damn, right in my backyard. I hope she can get a competent lawyer on her side.

That's it? She was hit in the face with a bottle to 'her attacker ended up dead.."?
Um, I need more than that. I know and understand the risks and implications of threat to transwomen, but I really want to know how she got the upper hand and what exactly happened to her attacker that he's dead?
It doesn't serve the T community to leave out vital information in a major crime, any more than the way the opposition does the same.
If it's unavailable, that's one thing. But I'll reserve a more expanded opinion, until I hear more about what happened.

Reagan, her and her friends were aggressively approached by Dean Schmitz (who was hanging outside the entrance of a bar and probably inebriated) after he'd yelled things at her. A melee ensued, she was hit with the bottle. At some point, she pulled out a pair of scissors she used to protect herself. The prosecutor claims she stabbed Schmitz. She says she warned him to stay away, he rushed her anyway and basically stabbed himself on the scissors.

None of us know the facts or details of this case to make sweeping judgments about her being railroaded or whether she did fatally stab him. It is agreed that, on some level, she was being insulted and yelled at by Schmitz and he did rush her and her friends, beyond that...

From what I know about self-defense law (even if I'm not a lawyer) being attacked with a bottle would be enough to justify using a weapon (the scissors) against her assailant. What I learned is that you can counter your assailant with the same amount of force being used against you so if he was unarmed she would be in the wrong, but if there were multiple attackers the danger level is sufficient to merit a weapon. Even so, it probably is more helpful if the stabbing was an actual accident, especially with her being a racial and sexual minority.

Om Kalthoum | June 28, 2011 9:28 PM

As my mother said, nothing good happens out on the street after midnight. Especially outside a bar.

Jill, if you're going to paint this killer (she did confess) as the victim here, at least show the other side of the picture:

A mourning family is hoping for justice after a 23-year-old man was charged with murder in connection with a fatal stabbing outside a Minneapolis bar.

Chrishaun McDonald is facing a second-degree murder charge in connection with the death of 47-year-old Dean Schmitz.

According to the criminal complaint, Schmitz came out of Schooner’s Tavern at about 12:30 on Sunday morning to have a cigarette with a group of people, but then that group got into a fight with another group across the street after a woman threw a glass in McDonald’s face.

Witnesses told police Schmitz was trying to pull people off a woman on the ground when he held his hand to his shirt and said, “You stabbed me.”

According to another witness, McDonald then said, “Yes, I did.”


Somewhere between your account and this news account lies the truth, I guess. However, labeling every incident of run-ins on the street where people hurl the worst insults they can think of to upset their opponents - labeling these as "hate crimes" is ill-advised, I think, and doesn't help our cause.

Interesting points, but I find your opening statement problematic. Are you saying that this person was "wrong" for going to a bar and then coming out after midnight? That sounds like potential victim blaming to me. People do not deserve to be attacked/insulted just for going to a bar.

Granted, we may not have all the facts of the case here, but really, what does the "coming out of a bar after midnight" angle have to do with anything?

Om Kalthoum | June 28, 2011 10:46 PM

Are you dissin' my mamma? She spoke the truth.

Anyway, the person you are labeling "victim" isn't alleged to have gone to the bar where the man was killed. And no, no one "deserves" to be insulted, but it happens all the time. If our response is to pull out the scissors we just happen to be toting and stab every insulting asshole stranger to death, then we're probably going to end up in the slammer.

No I was not dissing your mama. I just happen to have gone to a bar or two after midnight myself back when I was in college. It was not a common practice mind you, but it did happen.

Now, I noticed that you failed to answer my question. How was this person going to a bar after midnight a relevant fact to whether or not this incident was self defense or murder? The reason I bring up victim blaming (and I'm not saying this person is guaranteed innocence at all) is that this is an attitude frequently adopted in rape cases. That a particular person went to a bar, got drunk, and therefore deserved to be raped. Not quite the same thing as here, but to close enough I felt compelled to comment on it.

Om Kalthoum | June 28, 2011 11:31 PM
"How was this person going to a bar after midnight...."

HELLO! Please read before posting again. "This person" didn't go to that bar. I don't get that you're actually reading the news articles or what I'm posting. Anyway, how many ways do you want to hear that people don't "deserve" to be insulted OR murdered? But, sorry, you can cut down your chances of both by not being out on the street after midnight mixing it up with strangers outside of bars. And that's the (unfortunate) truth.

You quibbled over the detail of her going to a bar but completely left out that she was attacked with a bottle?

Om Kalthoum | June 29, 2011 5:08 AM

I quibbled over the prior poster's reading comprehension. You seem to share the same problem. Note the article I quoted which mentions that she was hit by a bottle.

I wonder if the charges would have been different if she had killed the woman who threw something at her, rather than the man who called her names.

Om Kalthoum | June 29, 2011 5:14 AM

Actually, a glass, not a bottle.

I think it's interesting how Om is relying on a single Fox News story which has some stated inaccuracies in it. Every other story mentions the bigoted statements Schmitz made... the Fox News story completely omits them. Moreover, they got some easily verifiable details wrong, like the amount of bail.

Schmitz's own brother admits Schmitz could sometimes be racist and homophobic: "It seems likely that Schmitz did indeed harass McDonald — of his alleged racist and transphobic comments, his brother says, 'At times he can be like that, yes.'"

That quote came from this updated news account: http://jezebel.com/5816292/trans-woman-accused-of-murder-after-alleged-harasser-dies.

Or this post from today, which states McDonald wasn't even the one holding the knife:

And the person Schmitz's son says he was 'trying to help' was a woman who had also shouted racist and homophobic epithets at McDonald and had just attacked her in the face with a glass. Omitting a few facts there?

And if we're going to be judgmental about anyone going to a bar (which Om clearly was) then how about judging a man who has kids at home yet is out drinking at 12:30 am?

Do a lot of people seem to have this "reading comprehension" problem in conversations with you? Because my writing professors always said that if multiple people aren't understanding your message, then it's your fault for conveying it poorly.

Directly insinuating that the woman in this story responded to insults with stabbing when she was in fact attacked and hit with a bottle is just disingenuous, and then criticizing another commenter for leaving out minor details while you leave out critical ones is even more so.

Ooops, upon rereading the articles, it seems it was a glass, not a bottle. Or was it a decanter? Or a flask? Or, god forbid, a carafe?! It doesn't matter! What matters is she was attacked by a glass implement resulting in facial lacerations that required stitches, from a group of people that were calling her and her friends by transphobic and racist slurs. This is not someone that's walking around just stabbing anyone that insults her.

Okay let me rephrase what I said, since it seemed to be a relevant point to you. How is it, that this incident took place outside a bar at a particular time (in this case, after midnight) relevant? You insinuated that because this person was outside a a bar that they are therefore guilty of murder and that the incident could not possibly have been self defense.

Om Kalthoum | June 29, 2011 2:09 PM

Look, whenever I read, see or hear about some public mischief, mayhem, murder, mob action or mopery that occurs overnight in my big city (and, more particularly, in my neighborhood in a sketchy part of said city), I often have my long-dead mother's warning to me ("Nothing good happens out on the street after midnight") come floating up to my consciousness. I suspect the people hereabouts who have more than a couple decades of living under their belts understand what those words mean in a way that you cannot (yet). I'm not going to be drawn into your attempt to make this about blaming the victim (of rape or anything else) although I understand it's an easy leap to make. Or rather, my first post was an attempt to show that "blame" is usually there aplenty for the apportioning on all sides in these type of events.

Don't forget that according to both sources she was attacked first with a bottle. There is a pretty big difference between attacking somebody after being insulted and attacking somebody after being attacked first. Omitting a detail like this is just a bit of a falsehood.

This post is not intended to provide a critical analysis of Chrishaun McDonald's allegations, but simply to present them. Feel free to point to other sources with other facts.

NO, no. I wanted to avoid this story. That Fox News account is absolutely brutal, though. Pictures can be deceiving but if that is who the person is, I think a lot can be read into what is going on here. If she is simply a man why is she being put into solitary confinement? If she were characterized as a woman, how much lower would her bail be and how much weight would be given to her side of the story? She is being tortured in solitary. I know a person who has been put in the hole, a fairly close relative. I am told he didn't have enough room to stretch his arms out. I can see her being characterized as a man, assigned a public defender with a huge case overload who has to contend with an ambitious prosecutor, being poorly defended due to no fault of the public defender (most probably), an emotional victim statement just before the jury goes into deliberation and a judge delivering the sentence with t v cameras staring right into his face. I've seen it happen before. People are railroaded all the time. The most calculating, most guilty are clever enough to afford good lawyers with connections. They get off with much lighter sentences, sometimes w/ no time to serve. I've seen it happen and stories abound.

I don't think anyone can make a fair judgement without knowing all the facts. I think, regardless of how guilty she might be and there are always varying degrees of guilt, the way she is being held and characterized right now is cause for great concern.

The reporting on this has really been all over the map.

I hate when stories like this happen and there's no real clarity of what actually took place. It's an easy setup to be painted as villains if we rush in and show unqualified support for someone and don't know the details. But at the same time, when someone's life is at stake, we can't just sit back and "be strategic."

There definitely does need to be a voicing of anything in this situation that indicates that this is more than about "hurt feelings" (which is obviously how the negative press is spinning it). There needs to be acknowledgement of the history of violence that both transsexual and African American people face, the exponential nature of it when someone is both, and the reasonable expectation of violence in this kind of situation.

There should also be some acknowledgement that violence isn't a preferable solution, although -- as in any self-defense situation -- can become necessary. And sympathy for the victim's family.

And there also needs to be a call for fair proceedings, proper treatment during her detention and fundraising for her defense.

But full unquestioning support? Unfortunately, I don't think we can do that just yet.