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Georgia Trans Woman's Suspected Killer May Dodge Murder Charges

Georgia Trans Woman's Suspected Killer May Dodge Murder Charges


Manslaughter charges were dropped this week for the man suspected of killing Keymori Johnson, as supporters of the trans woman remain concerned by misgendering from the District Attorney's office.

Hours after 24-year-old trans woman Keymori Shatoya Johnson was found fatally shot in the back December 6, 2014, outside her home in Albany, Ga., police arrested 25-year-old Kuyaunnis James for the murder. This week, a magistrate judge dropped James's felony charges and released him on $1,000 bond, reports the GA Voice, an LGBT newspaper in Georgia.

James was initially charged with voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, possession of a firearm, and solicitation of a prostitute, but now only faces the misdemeanor solicitation charge, reports the Voice. However, he could face all charges agan if a grand jury chooses to indict. Albany district attorney Gregory Edwards told the Voice he does intend to present the option before a 23-member grand jury expected to convene in March.

Still, Johnson's supporters fear the young woman may not find justice now that her suspected killer is no longer imprisoned. Several have also voiced concerns with how the District Attorney's office has treated Johnson's gender thus far, worrying that a grand jury may be biased by how the DA has continually referred to Johnson by her male birth name and male pronouns, notes the Voice.

Johnson's mother, Carol Asberry, added that her concern of prejudice also emerges from her child's openness about her occupation as a sex worker. "I'm just afraid because of who she was that [James] is going to get off. I'm so afraid of that," she concluded to the Voice. "He got out on $1,000 bond and I had to pay $8,000 to bury my [child]."

District Attorney Edwards assured reporters that he would present Johnson's case respectfully to the grand jury, saying, "I won't be biased in my presentation. The grand jury represents the community." He added that he has handled cases with transgender victims before, and would inform the jury of both Johnson's birth name and everyday name. He did not comment on pronoun use.

Some have also speculated that James's defense may use a "trans panic" argument, which attempts to excuse a murderer by claiming that internalized tranphobia "drove" him to kill, often after being surprised by a trans person's identity during a sexual situation. This defense has been repeatedly discouraged by the American Bar Association, and was banned in California in September 2014; Edwards demurred over whether James's team would employ such an argument.

James's charges are expected to be presented to a grand jury before March.

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