Sessions Sends Help in Transgender Murder Case

Jeff Sessions speaking to supporters at an immigration policy speech. (Unmodified Creative Commons photo by Gage Skidmore.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has sent a highly qualified federal hate crimes lawyer to assist in an Iowa murder case involving a transgender teen whose trial started on Tuesday.

According to the New York Times, this decision has shocked and confused many Americans since it goes against his notoriously conservative image. The case in question involves the murder of Kedarie Johnson, a 16-year-old teen from Burlington, Iowa who was shot to death in March 2016.

Sessions has historically reversed many policies that had been expanding the rights of transgendered individuals. For example, he announced that the Justice Department will no longer protect transgender individuals from discrimination in the workplace and he abolished the policy to motivate schools into allowing transgender students to use the restroom for the gender they identify as.

These actions were not unexpected due to Sessions strong conservative history.

So when Sessions decided to aid in the murder case of a transgender teen, the move seemed unusual. According to the Huffington Post, Sharon McGowan, Lambda Legal director of strategy, said that Sessions’ action was merely a “publicity stunt.”

However, Justice Department spokesman Devin O’Malley stated in an interview with the Times that Sessions’ move was “just one example of the attorney general’s commitment to enforcing the laws enacted by Congress and to protecting the civil rights of all individuals.”

Many critics have openly critiqued how the attorney general discriminates against the transgender community in several aspects of life but seems to hypocritically advocate for them in murder cases. However, Sessions has actually worked and aided in several cases that have involved hate crimes in the past.

In a June speech, the attorney general stated, “Hate crimes are violent crimes. No person should have to fear being violently attacked because of who they are, what they believe, or how they worship.”

According to the Times, supporters and critics alike believe that the attorney general is more likely to advocate for civil rights on a case by case basis.

During his time as an Alabama senator Sessions took a stance going against the federal hate crimes statute that protected individuals pertaining to their gender identity and sexual orientation. However, now as the attorney general supports the law and has been advocating against hate crimes.

Also, in his June speech, Sessions stated “We are not going to allow persons in this country to be discriminated against or attacked because of their sexual orientation.” Abiding by his promises, the attorney general has instructed the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department to take a look at various other cases that involve the murders of transgender individuals.

Christopher Perras of the Civil Rights Division was sent to Iowa to backup the prosecution in Johnson’s case.

Members of the LGBTQ community believe Sessions must do more to protect them and that the murder of transgender people is not the only concern that must be addressed.

The murdered teen, who identified as gender-fluid, was found shot to death in an alley with a bag around his head and covered in bleach just after 11 p.m. on March 2, 2016, by the Burlington police.

In January, Jorge Sanders-Galvez, 23, and Jaron Purham, 26, were charged with first-degree murder.

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