At a hearing for Chrishaun McDonald on Thursday morning, over 40 people gathered to show their support for her as both sides made arguments in regards to the defense’s motion for a bail reduction.
Rejecting the prosecution’s assertion that Ms. McDonald poses a threat to the community, Judge Daniel C. Moreno ordered her bail lowered from $150,000 to $75,000, a fraction of the $500,000 the prosecution originally sought.
Chrishaun McDonald is a young, African-American, transgender woman who was attacked by a group of white adults while walking by the Schooner Tavern on Lake Street in South Minneapolis. The attack occurred early on the morning of June 5, 2011. As Ms. McDonald and her friends walked past the bar on their way to Cub Foods, patrons of the bar attacked them with transphobic and racist slurs and bashed Ms. McDonald’s face with a glass beer mug, puncturing her cheek all the way through and lacerating her salivary gland. Although Ms. McDonald was the target of a hate crime, she was singled out and charged with second degree murder after one of the attackers died as a result of injuries sustained in the ensuing fight.
The bail reduction comes on the heels of Ms. McDonald’s release from solitary confinement last Wednesday. Ms. McDonald spent the first month after her arrest in solitary confinement against her wishes, although jail officials claimed that the classification was for her own protection as a transgender woman. On September 15 she was returned to solitary confinement, with no explanation offered by the jail. After several days of phone calls to the jail from supporters, Ms. McDonald was returned to the psychiatric ward on September 21st. Ms. McDonald has consistently stated that she feels safer housed with other people, though she continues to be held in the male unit despite having repeatedly asserted her desire to be housed with other women.
Ms. McDonald’s supporters have drawn connections between her case and broader patterns of violence and discrimination that transgender women of color face at disproportionate rates. According to a September 18th article on Truth-Out.org, “A recent report by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs found that 50 percent of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) murders in 2009 and 44 percent of LGBT murders in 2010 were of transgender women.“
Since Ms. McDonald’s arrest her family has experienced repeated harassment from people connected with Dean Schmitz. They have received threatening phone calls, and been harassed in public by people they recognized from the scene of the attack on Ms. McDonald. In one incident they had bottles thrown at them, and a car followed them down the street, its passengers yelling racial slurs and telling them to “go back to Africa.”
Though DNA evidence is due back in December, Ms. McDonald’s trial isn’t scheduled to begin until January 9th of next year; no other hearings are currently scheduled.
In the coming months, supporters say they will continue to fundraise for McDonald’s bail fund and generate publicity around her case. They have vowed to rally and pack the courtroom again on January 9th, to demand that the charges against Ms. McDonald be dropped.