A member of the Aryan Brotherhood, a white supremacist group, has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murder of a Black transgender woman in Oklahoma City.
“Your actions show that you’re a liar, a thief, and a murderer,” Judge Amy Palumbo told Brandon Michael Tyson as she sentenced him Wednesday for the 2017 killing of Brooklyn BreYanna Stevenson, The Oklahoman reports. “You are a danger to the public. You have been given chance after chance after chance.” Palumbo told him she hopes he prays for salvation.
Stevenson, 31, was found dead November 27, 2017, at an Oklahoma City motel. Tyson claimed he shot her because she attacked him, but police found no evidence of a struggle. Authorities did not say Stevenson’s gender identity was a motivation in the killing, according to the Associated Press. Media reports did not address whether race was a factor.
Stevenson, who pleaded guilty to the murder in February, had prior convictions for several crimes, including burglary and illegal possession of a firearm. His defense attorney blamed his actions on drug use.
“Mr. Tyson has nothing but remorse for what he’s done to the victim, the victim’s family, and his family,” Gary Higginbotham told The Oklahoman. “He has no justification. It’s just the effects of drug addiction.”
Several of Stevenson’s friends and relatives attended the sentencing hearing. Her mother, Vivian Stevenson, recalled her as a vibrant personality who “lit up a room whenever she entered it.”
She also told Tyson, “Burying a child is nothing that a parent should have to do, so with that being said, I never wanted the death penalty for you because I did not want your parents to have to go through what I am having to endure. I do pray that you get life without parole, though, because you have proven by your actions that you do not deserve to be free ever again.”
There were 27 reported homicides of transgender Americans in 2017, making it match 2016 as the deadliest year on record for U.S. trans people, by The Advocate’s count. Most victims were women of color. The total for any given year is likely higher, as many victims are misgendered by police or media, or their deaths not reported in the press at all.