Virginia Latest to Strike 'Trans Panic' Defense of Violent Crime
Litigation Partner William Shepherd spoke with Bloomberg Law about recently enacted legislation in Virginia that bans the use of the so-called "trans panic" defense in which a defendant explains violent crimes based on the discovery of the victim's gender identity. Virginia is the 12th state to pass such a law. The Criminal Justice Section of the American Bar Association (ABA) first called for the ban in 2013, and advocates have been working on a state-by-state basis to achieve that goal. Mr. Shepherd was chair of the ABA's Criminal Justice Section when it called for the ban, and he explained why change needs to come from state legislatures like Virginia's.
"Over 93 percent of these kinds of crimes are prosecuted in state courts," he said. "The federal courts, from a criminal perspective, are a very small percentage of crimes and certainly a small percentage of one-on-one individual violent crimes. So, if you want to have a change, the change really needs to come from the states."