CeCe McDonald’s Murder Trial

Update (5/2/12 12:50pm): Colorlines is reporting that CeCe has taken a plea deal that could result in a 41-month jail sentence: “Reports out of Minneapolis have it that CeCe McDonald has accepted a plea deal to second degree manslaughter due to negligence in the death of Dean Schmitz. ”


CeCe McDonald, a 23 year-old, black, transgender woman is looking at up to 80 years in prison for a hate crime-induced fight that left one man dead.

Here’s what’s being reported by Minnesota Daily and colorlines.com – While walking past Scooter’s bar in Minneapolis, CeCe and her friends were subjected to homophobic, transphobic, racist slurs by a group of three white bar patrons, one of whom was displaying swastika tattoos. A fight broke out. CeCe was physically attacked – allegedly one of of the attackers broke a bottle on her face, causing a laceration that required 11 stitches to close – and another of the attackers, Dean Schmitz, was killed – stabbed by a pair of scissors from CeCe’s purse.

The details will be established during CeCe’s trial, but at least the court will take into consideration the fact that the fight was likely started because hate crimes were committed, right? From Minnesota Daily:

Minnesota Public Radio’s recent coverage of the case focused on a debate that has become central to McDonald’s case: Should the hate crimes committed and attempted against McDonald be a consideration in her trial?

Both Minneapolis City Council member Cam Gordon and Rep. Susan Allen, DFL-Minneapolis, have weighed in, urging Hennepin County attorney Mike Freeman, the prosecutor in this case, to mind the hate crimes committed. Freeman, however, has stated that McDonald’s “gender, race, sexual orientation and class” will not be considerations in his case against her. Then of course there were the story’s comments, many of which made the claim that hate crimes don’t actually exist.

Nah, the fact that a young, black, transgender woman was walking down the street, was verbally assaulted by white supremacists (well I shouldn’t assume…I suppose the swastikas might have been applied in the ancient historical context, as a tantric symbol to evoke peace and a sense of eternity) and had a bottle broken on her face had nothing at all to do with the fact that CeCe was a young, black, transgender woman.

CeCe’s trial began yesterday.

CeCe McDonald’s Murder Trial
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17 thoughts on “CeCe McDonald’s Murder Trial

    1. 3.1

      I can only assume that the 80-year sentence would have been the result of a 2nd degree murder conviction. I don’t like that she’s going to be spending up to 41 months in prison, but being faced with the 80 years, I can’t fault her for accepting the plea bargain.

      Injustice has truly been served in this case.

  1. 5

    If the facts are correct (and I’ll assume they are), there is a basis of English common law called “duty to retreat,” which means that short of imminent harm to one’s self or family, you may defend yourself, but are not allowed to harm others. You’ll find this incredibly ironic, but “duty to retreat” has been removed from criminal statutes in FLORIDA and Louisiana. (If you’re not face palming, you are not human.)

    So, in a state like Minnesota or California or New York, you have to prove that you had no opportunity to retreat from the situation. Standing your ground is simply not an excuse. Using a gun to stop a beating that may not kill someone is excessive force.

    I’m not agreeing or disagreeing with what’s happening here. BUT, the prosecutor cannot allow any of us to kill another person if imminent harm is not apparent. And hate crimes has no bearing. There are a lot of jackasses in the world, and if we kill them all (as enticing as that may be), we’d be some sort of mirror world Nazi.

    Yes, it’s a difficult line to determine. Unless you live in Florida of course. Your responsibility is to run, not use excessive force in response to a bunch of dumbasses. Remember, if we use ideas like “hate crimes” or some other issue like that to defend the killing of another person, then we have Zimmerman in Florida. Reverse it, and let’s say 4 asian gay guys start harassing a straight white male, and he feels threatened and stabs one of them, what would be saying? “Oh that’s horrible.”

    My thoughts are all over the place with respect to this story, because I’m empathetic, but I know why we have laws that state you have to retreat. We’d have a violent anarchy if the local AG doesn’t punish these crimes. You just can’t kill another person unless there is an obvious attempt to take your life. Yeah, I know, that’s hard too.

    1. 5.1

      We’d have a violent anarchy if the local AG doesn’t punish these crimes.

      County Attorney Freeman has, in the past year, declined to prosecute several cases similar to Ms. MacDonald’s. Predictably, the defendants in the cases he didn’t prosecute were neither black nor trans women. And I don’t know about you, but what is it about a gang of belligerent assholes assaulting someone without provocation based solely on her race and gender that doesn’t strike you as already being “violent anarchy?”

      My thoughts are all over the place with respect to this story, because I’m empathetic, but I know why we have laws that state you have to retreat. We’d have a violent anarchy if the local AG doesn’t punish these crimes.

      See above. If you’re being empathetic, you could have fooled me.

      You just can’t kill another person unless there is an obvious attempt to take your life.

      What makes you think that CeCe wasn’t defending herself against an obvious attempt on her life? She had a glass smashed against her face. Dean Schmitz was chasing her down as she was attempting to flee. How much more obvious do you need to get?

      What was your point, anyway?

      1. Wow. I was merely stating the legality of the situation, not anything else. I’m always troubled by so-called liberals who act like conservatives, and find it difficult to appreciate a nuanced point of view. I’m uncivil to Republicans, so I guess if I don’t accept your point of view 100%, then I should be treated with a similar level of incivility. If I believed in karma, that would be evidentiary support of being screwed over by it.

        In fact, I’m quite consistent on what I believe. No violence is acceptable, even in defense or retribution. I’m just some sort of hippie peacenik, I guess. It’s probably from living in California too long.

        1. So.. if Cece wasn’t supposed to fight back, and she wasn’t able to run, what was she supposed to do? Get killed? Is that really more acceptable than self-defense?

        2. Yes, you did state the legality of the situation. I responded to state that under the circumstances of the situation, Ms. MacDonald was facing a direct threat to her own life, and was legally within her rights to defend herself. As a couple of other commenters have already pointed out, what other choice did she have? Should she have let the scary asshole with the swastika tattoo who was chasing her down just kill her instead?

          Your stating the legality of the situation wasn’t what was wrong with your comment. What bothers me is the fact that you seem less concerned about the injustice done to CeCe than you are about some person who isn’t you failing to live up to your “hippie peacenik” ideals. For the record, I’m not a liberal, and I don’t follow those ideals, either. Your concern about my incivility has been noted. Want to guess how much I care?

    2. 5.2

      She tried to retreat, but one of the attackers followed her. Duty to retreat laws require you to try to deescalate the situation, and only if that fails, to resort to violence. Given that a potentially lethal attack had already been perpetrated upon her, and that deescalation was no longer an option, she was perfectly within her rights to use violence.

      Incidentally, I don’t think you know what the word “nuanced” means. The phrase “vapid and arrogantly ill-informed” would have fitted much better.

    3. 5.3

      Yes, it’s a difficult line to determine. Unless you live in Florida of course. Your responsibility is to run, not use excessive force in response to a bunch of dumbasses.

      Michael, I’ve seen this response in other places. I don’t think you or the others who make this point have the full story. And I’m outraged that you don’t have the full story. Media coverage of CeCe’s case has been so terribly lacking.

      First person reports from the witnesses at the scene say that CeCe did run, that she was chased by Schmitz and pulled scissors from her purse, and that either Schmitz impaled himself upon the scissors while chasing her or she stabbed him while he was chasing her.

      Dean Schmitz has a criminal history of violent assault. This wasn’t going to be allowed into trial. It was under debate if the judge was going to allow the fact that Schmitz had a swastika tattoo. What. The. FUCK?

      Forget a plea bargain or proving herself innocent (instead of being proven guilty) She should NEVER have been charged for second-degree murder in the first place.

      There are so many other things that are horribly unfair and prejudiced about this case. Natalie Reed has a passionate article about CeCe’s case here: http://freethoughtblogs.com/nataliereed/2012/05/03/the-unspeakable/ Another source of information is here: http://www.bilerico.com/2012/05/death_and_the_maiden.php

      As Natalie points out, one of the horrific outcomes of CeCe going to jail is that she is going to be incarcerated in a men’s prison, where she will likely be subjected to the same sort of transphobia and violence that she was defending herself from on the night that Schmitz died.

    4. 5.4

      Hence, “Stand your ground” laws. It was exactly these sorts of problems that provided the impetus for stand your ground laws. The problem with these laws, however, is the same as the problem with the duty to retreat doctrine: they sound good on paper, but really don’t work in the hard cases.

      Zimmerman’s shooting of Trayvon is a perfect example of what the duty to retreat was intended to prevent. OTOH, being required to retreat, in you own home, against overwhelming odds, in impossible circumstances (do a little Googling) gave rise to the SYG laws. And, (pure speculation here) I strongly suspect that race contributes to the outrage over outcomes under either the duty to retreat or the stand your ground doctrine.

      1. I meant to say further that CeCe’s case is exactly what the Stand Your Ground laws are supposed to prevent.

        I’m not sure one can find two better cases to illustrate the opposing doctrines, or the role bigotry plays in the application of those doctrines.

  2. 6

    It all comes down to this CeCe had to pull out a weapon to kill the attaker thats why they don’t want to call it self defense. Now if she kick him with a nice 6 inch metal stellito high heel pump you know, the kind that can crack 3 inch glass just by stepping on it; and he died then they MIGHT have called it self defense. Key word might I don’t place much faith in the legal system it falls too much.

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