Judge will rule if tattoo is allowable evidence in murder trial

Chrishaun McDonald
Chrishaun McDonald is accused of fatally stabbing Dean Schmitz in an incident, June 5, 2011.
Courtesy of Chrishaun McDonald

A man who was killed outside a Minneapolis bar last summer had a tattoo of a swastika on his chest.

At a hearing today, the attorney for a transgender woman accused of fatally stabbing Dean Schmitz said the tattoo is relevant to next week's murder trial of Chrishaun McDonald because it symbolizes Schmitz' hatred of people who are different.

McDonald, an African American, says Schmitz, who is white, taunted her with racist and transphobic slurs. McDonald maintains she acted in self-defense after a woman in Schmitz' group smashed a glass against her face.

Judge Daniel Moreno will decide whether to allow photographs and testimony about the tattoo as evidence. Jury selection is scheduled to begin Monday.

Hennepin County prosecutors stand by the murder charges and say McDonald has offered contradictory explanations of the incident. McDonald told police she tried to scare Schmitz with a pair of scissors, and he ran into them.

The case of "CeCe" McDonald, as she was known to her friends, has become a cause celebre among members of the LGBT community.

Katie Burgess of the group Trans Youth Support Network said she has no doubt McDonald was fearful of being attacked for her race and gender.

"I am confident in the fact that she would feel reasonably afraid for her life in that situation, and I'm confident in the fact that she has the right to defend herself," Burgess said.

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