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Justice for Mercedes

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Joshua Vallum has been sentenced for the murder of Mercedes Williamson.

A Mississippi man has been sentenced to 49 years in prison for the first-ever conviction on federal hate crime charges arising from the killing of a transgender person.

A federal judge on Monday sentenced Joshua Vallum, who had previously been sentenced to life without parole on state murder charges.

Vallum acknowledged guilt in the 2015 death of 17-year-old Mercedes Williamson. The case had been closely watched by LGBT advocates nationwide.

He could have received life without parole. I suppose I should settle for being pleasantly surprised that he was convicted at all. But half a century – with likely early release – for killing a girl seems a bit light.

After Vallum’s “trans panic” defense failed, he claimed he killed Williamson to keep his fellow gang members from finding out about their relationship.

Some papers are focusing on the fact that Vallum was a gang member. Dramatic, but I think it muddies the waters. Vallum didn’t kill Williamson because he was a gang member. He killed her because he saw her as the rest of society sees transgender women: Something disposable.

 

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