A D.C. Superior Court trial began on Wednesday for a District man charged with first-degree murder while armed for the February 2012 stabbing death of transgender woman Deoni JaParker Jones, 23, at a bus stop in Northeast Washington.
Police and prosecutors charged Gary N. Montgomery, who was 55 at the time of the incident, with stabbing Jones in the head as she stood at a bus stop near her home at East Capitol Street and Sycamore Road, N.E. on the evening of Feb. 2, 2012.
The incident shocked members of the LGBT community who organized vigils at the site of the stabbing and called for greater efforts to curtail hatred and bias toward transgender people.
Police identified and arrested Montgomery less than a week after the stabbing based on information provided by witnesses and nearby residents.
Prosecutors with the United States Attorney’s Office have said they did not have evidence to indicate the murder was a hate crime, a conclusion disputed by Jones’ family members.
The trial began nearly five and a half years after Montgomery’s arrest. It had been postponed several times after conflicting psychiatric reports made it unclear whether Montgomery was competent to stand trial, according to court records. Since the time of his arrest, Montgomery has been held at St. Elizabeth’s, a D.C.-run psychiatric hospital.
Court records show that on Nov. 29, 2016, Superior Court Judge Lynn Leibovitz cleared the way for a trial by handing down an order finding Montgomery competent to stand trial based on the findings of the latest of several psychiatric examinations.
In opening arguments on Thursday, Montgomery’s defense attorney, David Knight, argued that police and prosecutors had insufficient evidence to prove that it was Montgomery rather than an as-yet-to-be-identified attacker that stabbed Jones.
Prosecutors have said they would present witnesses who identified Montgomery as the attacker at the bus stop where Jones was stabbed. At least one witness was stopped in her car at a red light next to the bus stop and saw Montgomery strike Jones and knock her down, according to police charging documents.
Charging documents state another witness identified Montgomery from video footage of the crime scene that police obtained from a nearby security camera.
Among the prosecution witnesses called on Thursday was D.C. Police officer Justin Markiewicz, who at the time of the incident was a member of the department’s LGBT Liaison Unit and who responded to the scene on the night of the stabbing. Markiewicz testified about one of the witnesses whom police interviewed shortly after the incident.
At the end of Thursday’s court session, Leibovitz recessed the trial until Monday morning, Aug. 7.
Among those in the courtroom watching the trial was Alvin Bethea, Jones’ stepfather, who along with his wife has emerged as an outspoken advocate for transgender rights since the time of Deoni Jones’ death.
“It should not have taken five and a half years to get to a trial,” Bethea told the Washington Blade. “This is not just painful to my wife and me but also to the LGBT community whose members only want to be able to live their lives without danger,” he said.