A jury convicted a Cleveland man for the death of a black transgender woman. They found him guilty of fatally shooting the woman during an argument in February 2018.
Gary Sanders, 37, now faces up to 17 years in prison once the judge hands down the sentence.
Sanders was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the killing of Phylicia Mitchell, a 45-year-old transgender woman. The jury acquitted him of murder charges. Those charges would have carried a life sentence with a chance of parole after serving 15 years.
Sanders and Mitchell were friends who lived together in the city’s Edgewater neighborhood. Several others lived with them in the house, including Mitchell’s partner, Shane Mitchell.
Shane and Phylicia considered themselves married.
‘She was a good person, even though she had a drug problem, she’s a good person,’ Shane said of Mitchell to cleveland.com. ‘She got mixed up with the wrong people.’
What happened a year ago?
Prosecutors said during the trial that Mitchell’s death did not have to do with her gender identity. Instead, they posited Sanders shot and killed Mitchell after an argument escalated.
On 24 February 2018, the pair began fighting when Sanders pulled out a pistol. According to prosecutors, Sanders shot Mitchell in the chest, killing her.
Sanders initially told police he was in East Cleveland at the time of the shooting and had no involvement.
Surveillance footage and cell phone records, however, placed Sanders around the house during the shooting. The footage showed Sanders walking around the area of the house less than a minute after the shooting.
Other people in the house also testified Sanders was there.
A violent epidemic
This violence against transgender women of color is horrifyingly and heartbreakingly common.
At the first Democratic debate this week, one candidate — Cory Booker — brought up the violence against the transgender community.
‘We do not talk enough about Trans Americans, especially African-American trans Americans. And the incredibly high rate of murder right now,’ he said.