TLDEF Responds to Indictment in the Killing of Islan Nettles

New York, NY - March 4, 2015 - The Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF) responded to the announcement by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. that his office has indicted 24-year old James Dixon on first and second degree manslaughter and first degree assault charges for the August 17, 2013 killing of Islan Nettles, a 21-year-old African American transgender woman from Harlem.

Dixon is charged with punching Islan in the head and knocking her to the ground where she hit her head on the pavement, causing a serious brain injury. The indictment says Dixon then struck her again repeatedly, causing further serious brain injury. Islan died days later in the hospital. Since the killing, TLDEF has joined a chorus of transgender advocacy voices in calling for justice for Islan. In August of 2014, TLDEF spoke out about this case in a Sunday New York Daily News op-ed.

Statement from TLDEF Executive Director Michael Silverman

"Far too many transgender women of color like Islan Nettles are lost to violence and brutality and all too often their killers go unpunished. We are pleased to see an indictment in this case and thank District Attorney Vance for his efforts in the investigation. This is a step towards finding a measure of justice for Islan and her loved ones.

"As I noted in the New York Daily News last August on the one-year anniversary of Islan's death:  ‘Islan Nettles' life mattered. It mattered to her friends, to her family and to her community….  Transgender people are gaining more visibility, acceptance and legal protection every day. But violence remains a daily part of life.' A 2013 National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs report confirmed that reality, revealing the disproportionate impact that deadly violence has on transgender women of color.

"It has been widely reported that at least seven men, including Dixon, taunted Islan and her transgender friends on the night of her killing, yelling homophobic and transphobic slurs before the attack. This case is a stark reminder that transgender people are still not covered under New York State's hate crimes law. We urge passage of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act or GENDA, which would add transgender people to New York's hate crimes law and protect them from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. It is time for transgender New Yorkers to have full protection under the law.

"The indictment of James Dixon is an important milestone and we urge a vigorous prosecution in this case. Islan Nettles deserves justice. We continue to honor her life and renew our plea for an end to anti-transgender violence."

Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund is committed to ending discrimination based upon gender identity and expression and to achieving equality for transgender people through public education, test-case litigation, direct legal services, and public policy efforts.

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