DALLAS - A Dallas judge has ruled that a transgender woman brutally beaten in an apartment complex parking lot can be identified to jurors by her chosen name and gender.
In April, Muhlaysia Booker, whose birth name was Pierre, was attacked following a fender bender. A month after the attack, Booker was found fatally shot in a separate case.
Prosecutors asked Judge Hector Garza to allow Booker to be identified as Muhlaysia, while defense attorneys for the man going on trial for the apartment complex attack objected.
The state won this round in court, but one law school professor said the issue is much bigger than this trial.
Edward Thomas was in jail stripes in court for a pre-trial hearing as he faces a felony assault with a deadly weapon charge.
He was arrested in the April beating of Muhlaysia Booker, which was caught on cell phone video.
Prosecutors filed a motion seeking to change Booker’s name in the indictment from "P” (Pierre), to Muhlaysia Booker.
Defense attorney Andrew Wilkerson objected, saying it was prejudicial and it "makes it sound like it’s a man beating a defenseless woman."
The defense is doing everything they can to portray this victim as a man, and Muhlaysia Booker was not a man,” said Leslie McMurray, with The Resource Center. “If they could understand what it’s like being transgender, they would never say that this was male-on-male fighting.”
Wilkerson told the court all official documents list Pierre. not Muhlaysia Booker.
In rebuttal, prosecutor Jason Hermus added that it is not required that vital statistics or anything be changed to present a person by the name they went by, saying, “…as a matter of respect, we're identifying him as Muhlaysia Booker.”
“It’s very difficult for us who are transidentified to receive the necessary resources in order to justify our truth in living here in Dallas, and so if the legal system is not in our favor, it’s going to take some time,” said Minister Carmarion D. Anderson, with Living Faith Covenant Church.
Wilkerson said the judge should choose "sociology over biology...it's not in the best interest of justice...my client's life is on the line."
Judge Garza granted the name change request.
“This is a very interesting and complicated issue, because at the end of the day, this is not settled law,” said Mike Howard, adjunct professor at UNT Law School.
Howard, a defense attorney who is not connected to the case, said the prosecution and defense are doing their jobs.
The problem is that the law has not caught up with society.
“Our societal norms have developed over time when it comes to race, when it comes to gender, and now, when it comes to gender roles and the difference between strict biology, and who I feel I am as a person,” Howard added.
And no matter what happens when this trial takes place in October, Howard believes this won’t be the last time this happens in a case.
“So ultimately, I think this is an issue that’s going to have legs, and it’s going to be fought out above the trial court,” he said.
Howard added that he expects this issue to go before the U.S. Supreme Court at some point.
The defense lodged a running objection to the judge's ruling, looking to establish grounds for appeal if there is conviction.
This trial is set for Oct. 15. There could be more motions filed before then.