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Defense Lawyers in Trans Assault Case Deadname, Misgender Victim

Andrew Wilkerson and Muhlaysia Booker

An attorney defending a man accused of beating a Dallas transgender woman has been found in contempt of court because of frequent angry outbursts, in a trial that has seen defense attorneys repeatedly deadname and misgender the victim.

Andrew Wilkerson is one of the lawyers representing Edward Dominic Thomas, who is charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in the April 12 attack on Muhlaysia Booker, who was beaten by a mob shouting antigay and misogynist slurs in the parking lot of her Dallas apartment complex following a minor traffic accident. The deadly weapon in question is his fists. A month later, Booker was shot to death, and a different man, Kendrell Lavar Lyles, has been arrested in connection with that crime.

Wilkerson had made “repeated outbursts” during the trial, State District Judge Hector Garza said in citing him for contempt Thursday, Newsweek reports. The charge appears to stem from Wilkerson’s cross-examination of a police detective investigating the case and from a related exchange with Garza.

The lawyer, who is African-American, alleged that the contempt citation reflected racial bias. “Put a Black man in jail, huh? That’s the only way to shut him up,” Wilkerson told the judge. “As long as I’m here I’ll be continuing to represent [Thomas] zealously, your honor.” Garza imposed a $500 fine on Wilkerson and sentenced him to 14 days in jail, but the lawyer was released on bond Friday morning.

“Defense attorneys in the case have repeatedly disrupted the trial by refusing to use correct pronouns when speaking about Booker, and only referring to the deceased woman by her former name,” Newsweek reports. At one point, Michael Campbell, another member of Thomas’s defense team, interrupted a prosecutor who was reading Booker’s medical records by saying, “Read the sex. What does the sex say?”

The defense lawyers have also contended that Booker provoked the attack by making rude comments to the people in the parking lot. Prosecutors say that even if that was the case, it would not justify the brutal assault, in which Booker suffered facial fractures and an arm injury.

Constant reports of violence against our community are difficult to read, especially as we continue to face historic rates. If you or someone you know is experiencing violence, you can reach out to the Anti-Violence Project’s free bilingual (English/Spanish) national hotline at (212) 714-1141 or report online for support.

(RELATED: These Are the Trans People Killed in 2019)

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