In May 2012, CeCe McDonald, who identifies as female, was sentenced to 41 months in a men’s prison facility, for the death of Dean Schmitz in June of 2011. On the night of Schmitz’s death, McDonald and four others were walking by a bar, when Schmitz and a group of people started taunting McDonald with racist and transphobic language. An altercation with Schmitz and other patron’s at the bar broke out. In an effort to defend herself, after a glass was thrown at her face, McDonald used a pair of scissors to defend herself against Schmitz, resulting in his death.
Though many believe McDonald was acting in self-defense, the prosecution labeled her actions that night criminal in nature. On April 15, 2012, transgender author and activist Kate Bornstein appeared on Melissa Harris Perry’s MSNBC show to speak up for McDonald, drawing contrasts between the relentless prosecution McDonald faced and the fact that George Zimmerman had only been charged days earlier in the February 26 shooting death of Trayvon Martin.
Many others voiced support for McDonald, with some going so far as to label her the victim. Among them was Minneapolis City Council member Cam Gordon, who referred to the incident as “another example of transgender women of color being targeted for hate and bias-related violence.”
McDonald is now set be to released next week — over a year before her initially scheduled release date.
McDonald is the subject of an upcoming documentary by “Orange Is The New Black” actress and activist Laverne Cox, titled “Free CeCe.” The film will primarily consist of Cox’s interview with McDonald in prison and explore the events surrounding what happened to her on that night in 2011, as well as her experiences being incarcerated in a men’s prison.
McDonald is slated to be released at some point next week. A statement published on the blog “Demand Fair Justice for CeCe McDonald” notes:
The rumors are true: CeCe is scheduled to be released from prison in January. She will wait and write a public statement about her release after she gets out of prison, because she wants to tell you all in her own words and own time. She would like to spend her first days out in privacy, with people she feels close to. Again, information about her release will be shared when CeCe feels it is the right time to do so. In the meantime, she and her support committee ask everyone to be patient.