Jury selection begins today (April 4) for the trial of James Dixon. The New York City resident pleaded not guilty to first- and second-degree manslaughter charges and a first degree assault charge in the 2013 death of Islan Nettles, a Black trans woman.
According to Mic, Dixon faced no charges until March 2015. He provided NYPD detectives with two statements in the immediate aftermath of Nettles’ death. In one of those statements, which was read aloud in court last Thursday (March 31), Dixon says he fell while running across a street and punched a woman after he noticed that she and her friends laughed at him. The other statement, written after detectives further questioned Dixon, said that he approached Nettles and tried to hit on her. But after his friends laughed at him, he asked Nettles, “if she was a man” and punched her. That punch, followed by at least one more, left her comatose. She died the next week.
A videotape shows Dixon insisting to skeptical detectives and prosecutors that he doesn’t ”go around gay bashing people.” He continues on, saying, “I don’t care about what they do, I just don’t wanna be fooled. My pride is at stake.”
Nettles’ violent death came at a time of peak reported violence against trans people. According to Mic, she is one of nearly 25 trans women of color killed in the last few years. A new report from the Transrespect Versus Transphobia Worldwide (TvT) Project states that 22 trans and gender diverse persons were reported murdered in the U.S. in 2013—the same number murdered last year.
Her death inspired vigils, protests and increased recognition of the systemic violence faced by trans people of color. Nettles’ mother Dolores sat with “Orange is the New Black” star Laverne Cox during the 2014 New York City Pride Parade, holding a picture of Islan.