One of two men arrested for the July 4 shooting death of D.C. transgender woman Deeniquia ‘Dee Dee’ Dodds, 22, is among at least 121 defendants given lenient sentences under the D.C. Youth Rehabilitation Act since 2010 who a short time later have been charged with murder.
According to a Washington Post investigative report, cases similar to that of Dodds, in which a D.C. resident has been murdered by a youthful offender who had been released from jail or served no jail time for a prior violent criminal conviction, has prompted a heated debate among policy makers.
The first of two lengthy stories on the subject, which the Post published on Dec. 4 and 5, mentions another LGBT-related case in which a gay man was severely beaten in 2013 while being called anti-gay names by 20-year-old twins Christina and Christopher Lucas.
In August 2015 a D.C. Superior Court jury found the Lucas twins guilty of both aggravated assault and the designation of the incident as an anti-gay hate crime. In an action deemed highly controversial, Judge Yvonne Williams rejected a request by prosecutors for a 15-year jail term and sentenced the two under the Youth Rehabilitation Act.
She initially sentenced both to one year in jail but triggered more controversy by lowering Christina Lucas’s sentence to six months in jail on grounds that Christina Lucas – an open lesbian – could not commit a true hate crime against another gay person.
In response to objections filed by prosecutors, Williams rescinded the lowering of Christina Lucas’s sentence and recused herself so that another judge could make the final decision on the sentencing. A second judge confirmed that the sentence should be one year in jail under the Youth Act.
The Post story points out that about one year later, in September of this year, the Lucas twins were re-arrested. Court records show that Christopher Lucas was charged with making threats to do bodily harm and Christina Lucas was charged with obstructing justice and resisting arrest for allegedly trying to block police from arresting her brother.
The two Post stories on the Youth Act report that advocates for crime victims are raising questions about the effectiveness of the law. Should it be repealed, scaled back or left in place based on the intent of the D.C. City Council, which passed the law in 1985 at the recommendation of then Mayor Marion Barry?
Barry and all but one member of the 13-member Council at the time said the Youth Act was needed to give youthful offenders a second chance in life, which supporters of the law said could help transform them into productive citizens.
But critics, the Post reported on Sunday, point to defendants like Shareem Hall, 22, who has been charged with first-degree felony murder while armed for the Dodds slaying.
Court records show that Hall was one of four masked men who invaded the Northeast D.C. home of a family in 2013, held the victims at gunpoint, and ransacked the house. Court records show Hall was sentenced under the Youth Act in that case, which resulted in his being released from jail on probation in 2015, about a year before he was charged in Dodds’s murder.
“You’re telling me you can come back out on the streets and rob again, hold people hostage again, kill again – because of the Youth Act?” the Post quoted Joeann Lewis, Dodds’s aunt, as saying.
A police arrest affidavit says Hall and three other men allegedly targeted transgender women for armed robberies in three locations on the night that Dodds was found fatally shot in the neck on July 4.
Hall and Jalonte Little, 26, have been charged with first-degree felony murder while armed in connection with the Dodds murder. So far the police and court charging documents do not identify which of the two pulled the trigger.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser told the Post she believes judges, prosecutors, and defense lawyers have come to “misapply” the Youth Act at the expense of public safety.
“We can’t have a safe city if there are no quick and certain punishments for crimes,” the Post quoted Bowser as saying.
D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) told reporters on Monday he thinks it’s time to take another look at whether the Youth Act is succeeding in helping to rehabilitate youth offenders, which he called an important goal.
“On the other hand, if what we are doing is continually forgiving a young person for the act of committing a violent crime, I don’t think we are protecting the public and getting the result that we want in terms of rehabilitating youth,” he said.
Council member Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5), chair of the Council’s Judiciary Committee, which must approve any proposed changes to the Youth Act, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.