Human Rights Campaign Calls for a Thorough Investigation into the Murder of Duanna Johnson

by HRC Staff

"The tragic murder of Duanna Johnson must be fully and fairly investigated and those responsible brought to justice" - Joe Solmonese, President of the Human Rights Campaign.

WASHINGTON- The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender civil rights organization, today called for a thorough investigation into the murder of a transgender woman who had previously been a victim of police brutality. Duanna Johnson, whose abuse at the hands of two police officers earlier this year was captured on surveillance video, was found shot to death in North Memphis just before midnight on Sunday, November 9, 2008.

"The tragic murder of Duanna Johnson must be fully investigated," said HRC President Joe Solmonese. "The Tennessee Equality Project recently provided much-needed training to employees of the Memphis Police Department on how to be respectful and responsive to the needs of the LGBT community. Today, we call on the Memphis Police Department to fulfill its renewed commitment to treating transgender people with respect and fairness by thoroughly investigating this horrible crime and ensuring that every measure is taken to bring those responsible to justice."

Last June, Johnson was brutally beaten by a Memphis Police Officer while in police custody after she refused to respond to a transgender slur. A second officer held her down during the beating. Surveillance video showed the officer striking Johnson several times with handcuffs wrapped around his gloved fist and later spraying her with mace. Both officers were eventually fired from the department.

Johnson's murder is the third murder of a transgender person in Memphis since 2006. Tiffany Berry, a twenty-one-year-old African American transgender woman, was shot and killed on February 16, 2006. Ebony Whitaker, a 20-year-old African American transgender woman, was murdered by an unknown assailant and found dead on July 1, 2008.

Tennessee's hate crimes law does not explicitly cover hate crimes based on gender identity. The recent rash of violent crimes against transgender people in Memphis further demonstrates the need to enact federal hate crimes legislation that includes sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

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