Crishaun “CeCe” McDonald trial begins

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Nearly 11 months after Crishaun (CeCe) McDonald, a young, transgender woman, was arrested and charged with the murder of Dean Schmitz, her trial has begun. Although from all accounts it will most likely last for at least a couple of weeks, that didn’t stop scores of McDonald’s supporters from packing the court on Monday morning. Forbidden to wear clothes that show support (such as Free CeCe buttons, t-shirts, etc), the supporters nevertheless waited in the hallway for two hours while attorneys from both sides met in the judge’s chambers, and filled in the seats while the court went on record over several outstanding issues before jury selection, which was to begin in the afternoon.

The case against CeCe has garnered national attention, as it raises issues faced by the transgender community. 

On June 5 of last year, police responded to a report of a stabbing at the intersection of 27th Avenue South and 29th Street in Minneapolis, which is outside of Schooner Tavern. McDonald’s supporters say that McDonald and her friends were called transphobic slurs, after which a fight broke out. As the trial continues, the jury will have to decide what really happened- was McDonald’s face slashed with a piece of glass? Was Dean Schmitz stabbed, or did he run into the weapon? What was the weapon, as there is none in evidence? Was it scissors, or a knife?

Judge Moreno ruled on a couple of issues Monday morning prior to jury selection. First of all, the defense objected to the use of one particular photo the prosecutor planned to use in a slide presentation. Photograph #3 is an image of the victim during his autopsy. He is wearing a bloody shirt showing “a huge amount of blood,” according to McDonald’s attorney Hersch Izek, which he argued was “cumulative in nature and unduly prejudicial.”

However, the prosecution argued that the photograph was not cumulative in nature, nor unduly prejudicial, as there was only one  image, and also argued that the photograph illustrated where the victim was stabbed, and the “nature of the defect,” which was important since, because there is no murder weapon, the type of weapon is in dispute. Judge Moreno ruled that the photograph would be allowed.

According to McDonald supporter Luce Guillen-Givins, Judge Daniel C. Moreno said last Friday that mention of victim Dean Schmitz’s swastika tattoo would not be allowed.

Another issue raised on Monday morning is whether two witnesses from the Hennepin County Victim Witness Assistance Program would be allowed to sit in on the trial. The judge ruled they would not be allowed to do so. 

Finally, the prosecution raised the issue of another witness, Mr. Thomas, who the prosecution said Izek had interviewed without witnesses. The judge ruled Thomas will submit a new statement, and during the trial, Izek will not be allowed to question him, having instead a different attorney from the Legal Rights Center do so. According to Debra Lund, from the prosecution team, Izek had become a “witness” in interviewing Thomas. After the hearing, Izek called that statement “nonsense.” 

As of early Monday afternoon, the judge had not ruled on the admissibility of several expert witnesses, including Cesar Gonzales, who would be an expert in trans issues.