DAO updates public on cases involving trans community members

Markiya Jackson, sister of Mar’Quis “MJ” Jackson, speaking at the March 15 press conference.

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office has announced a suspect in connection with the killing of Mar’Quis “MJ” Jackson, a Black trans man and community advocate who was found dead on December 14, 2022 in Nicetown. District Attorney Larry Krasner, DAO staff, and members of Jackson’s family gathered along with other LGBTQ+ advocates at a March 15 press conference where Krasner and the Homicide/Non-Fatal Shootings Unit said an arrest warrant has been issued for Charles Mitchell, 40, who remains at large.

“My brother deserves justice; my family deserves justice,” Markiya Jackson, sister of Mar’Quis “MJ” Jackson, said at the press conference. “I’ve known my brother for 29 years, god gave me that privilege. He was my protector, my best friend.”  

Krasner and the family of Jackson urged anyone with information about the whereabouts of Charles Mitchell to call 911 or the Philadelphia Police Department tip line at 215-686-8477. Upon arrest, Mitchell will be charged with murder, abuse of corpse and tampering with evidence. 

“My brother was not a bad person,” Markiya Jackson continued. “No one deserves to be heinously taken out of this world at the hands of another human being.” Jackson asked that anyone with information about Mitchell share it with the Philadelphia Police Department. 

Jackson added that, “one of the things that Charles said to my mother when my mom found my brother was, ‘I didn’t know if that was a man or a woman.’ Gender should never matter. Nothing about gender or what this person does in their daily lives should be a reason for you to kill someone.”

Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore, supervisor in the Homicide/Non-Fatal Shootings unit, said at the conference that Jackson suffered blunt force trauma to his face, and may have survived had he received aid. 

In addition to Krasner, Jackson, and Pescatore, the press conference was attended by ADA Helen Park, Supervisor in the Carjacking Enforcement unit; ADA Brian Kean of the Major Trials unit; DAO LGBTQ+ Liaison Kelly Burkhardt; Natasha Danielá de Lima McGlynn, executive director of the Anti-Violence Partnership of Philadelphia; Kendall Stephens, activist, survivor and member of DAO LBGTQ+ Advisory Committee, Celena Morrison, executive director of the Philadelphia Office of LGBT Affairs; and family members and friends of trans women Shahere “Diamond” Jackson-McDonald and Tracy “Mia” Green.

Jackson-McDonald was found dead in her mother’s apartment on the morning of November 24, 2022. Her case is still under investigation, and her family urged anyone with information on her death to contact the Philadelphia Police Department.

In December 2022, Jackson-McDonald’s mother, Linda Jackson, shared in a statement “I just want the world to know that Diamond was my rock, my shoulder, my child whom I love with every inch of me, and what I have left to give. Whoever you are, you took away my gem, my diamond, someone who was all about her family and friends. You tore many hearts, and we will not rest until we get justice.”

ADA Park reported on the conviction of Abdullah El-Amin, who shot and killed Green in the morning hours of Sept. 28, 2020. El-Amin was sentenced to 17.5 to 35 years in prison. As part of his testimony, El-Amin gave multiple versions of what transpired the morning of Green’s murder, including that Green jumped into his car and that someone else shot her, Park said at the press conference. El-Amin framed Green as a violent, aggressive person who was trying to rob him, and claimed that he acted in self-defense. However, the jury rejected El-Amin’s story and found him guilty. 

“I did not have the personal privilege of knowing Mia,” Park told the crowd. “But the community that rallied around her and the stories that I’ve heard from her family make it very clear that Mia was someone who always strived to be true to who she was.”

Green’s mother Pamela Smith and nieces Miyira Swann and Kyara Anderson attended the press conference. Swann and Anderson spoke about the toll their aunt’s death has had on their mental health, the transphobia that Green experienced while she was alive, and her perseverance, positivity and kindness in spite of that.

Also at the press conference, ADA Kean spoke about the trial and subsequent sentencing in the 2020 assault of activist Kendall Stephens, which took place at her home. Tymesha Wearing was charged and convicted of first degree aggravated assault, first degree conspiracy to commit aggravated assault, and hate crime as a violation of a city ordinance. Wearing’s sentence did not involve incarceration. 

Stephens and Krasner urged Pa. state lawmakers to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the state hate crime law. 

“I stand wondering how many more attacks and murders on trans-identified people will it take for state lawmakers to sign into a bill, a protected act of our hate crime ordinance that will include LGBTQ+-identified individuals,” Stephens said at the conference. “We are tired of hearing ‘rest in peace’ and ‘rest in power.’ That peace and power should be experienced while we’re alive. Liberation for us should not happen in death, it should happen in life.”

Krasner emphasized that these violent acts toward trans people are indirect results of state and federal lawmakers perpetuating bigotry through statements and legislation, such as the “Don’t Say Gay” law in Florida. He also communicated that Philly is a safe haven for LGBTQ folks, and that violence against queer and trans individuals will not be tolerated. 

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