Judge in Texas transgender murder case offers perspective on light sentence for killer

janette tovar trans texasLEXIE CANNES STATE OF TRANS — The transgender community found itself in an uproar following a seemingly light sentence meted out for the 2012 Texas murder of trans woman Janette Tovar. On September 15th, Jonathan Stuart Kenney plead guilty to a lesser charge — aggravated assault — in a plea bargain in exchange for a 10-year probation period and no jail time.

Tovar and Kenney were living together in 2012 when Tovar died at a hospital following a head injury caused by Kenney when the two became engaged in a fight. The murder charge was dropped to aggravated assault and prosecutors say not a hate crime, but rather, domestic violence. One apparent reason for the lessor sentence.

Trans woman Pamela Curry had an opportunity to talk with state district Judge Tracy Holmes, conveying the trans community’s concerns following the sentencing. Curry stated that Judge Holmes shared information that wasn’t commonly known — Tovar refused EMT transportation to a hospital following her injury, further, she had cocaine in her system — something that could cast reasonable doubt on the real cause of death with a jury. Kenney had a real chance of getting acquitted if the case went to trial.

While at first glance, a sentence of probation may seem extraordinary light, there are tough realities and hurdles facing Kenney. First, he has admitted to assault, of which there is no appeal. Second, a 10-year probation is no walk in the park for a known drug user and a person with propensity for violence. Drug and alcohol testing is reportedly part of his sentence. A trip-up or an arrest for violence could result in Judge Holmes turning the probation into a couple decades in prison.


T/H Pamela Curry

My original story on Janette Tovar’s murder: https://lexiecannes.com/2012/10/28/trans-women-murdered-in-puerto-rico-and-dallas-texas/


More on the sentencing: http://crimeblog.dallasnews.com/2015/09/dallas-man-receives-10-years-probation-for-death-of-transgender-woman.html/?hootPostID=b41d5e26c6f57e93583873c56f4221f6

janette tovar trans texas

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Read Lexie Cannes in The Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/courtney-odonnell/

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9 replies

  1. Great job capitalizing on this tragedy, this travesty of justice. Anyone with a nose on their face realized drugs were involved. So Curry needed the spotlight and you amplified it and what of her cousin? Curry used her knowledge and privilege to get a moment with the judge after the trial and tagged me in the same comment you are using for this article. And what of her cousin? Curry told her she ‘didn’t care’ enough to talk to the judge following the sentencing. She was in tears because the judge told the deputies to remove ‘that thing’ from the court room. “That thing’ being Tovar’s mom. Curry by her own admission wasn’t at that sentencing.
    News flash. We all knew there were drugs involved from the original news reports. I probably wouldn’t have even commented had Curry not deleted her comments from her facebook post, but this just needs to be said.
    So if she was using or even dealing drugs? I dare our LGBT community to thumb their noses down on her for that. And yes perhaps the sentence was the best that they could get but no there wasn’t justice not in the court or here.

  2. You saw I had posted the following on Pamela Curry timeline NOTIFYING YOU THAT THE FAMILY HAS NOT BEEN NOTIFIED YET

    I have always considered you a friend and I know that you are very aware that we are friends on Facebook and what my family has been through, THAT AFTER 3 YEARS WE WERE NEVER GIVEN THIS INFORMATION AND THE JUDGE PLANNED TO TELL US IN A PRIVATE MEETING

    did it ever occur to you that maybe you wanted to talk about this privately with me before posting it on Facebook? As you know me and my family have never received answers, I don’t have a problem with you talking to the judge, but are you sure she wanted you to post this before the immediate family even had a chance to know this type of information, period? As you see on my timeline she had scheduled a meeting to speak with us privately about some of the reasons that the case came to this conclusion, it is absolutely heartbreaking and completely insensitive to the victim’s family to come on to Facebook and to make it a topic of a thread before the family even knows..

    So let’s get this straight, the judge makes time to talk to some random person before ever making time to talk directly to the family, she discusses the private details as to how you reached the conclusion of the case which is fine, because its public record but until it’s been discussed with the family and should have never been disclosed and especially not on Facebook in such a manner

    I was just waiting for one of these to start..
    I don’t have a problem with facts but I do have a problem with information being disclosed before the family had time to respectfully digest or even know about any of this, I apologize for the insensitivity of some people, however I will discuss this further with EVERYONE

    I’m sure there is a protocol that was broken here

  3. To me, this reads like victim-blaming and making excuses for an admitted killer. Not a very good look Lexie!

  4. Thanks for the comments. It may *appear* to be victim blaming. No trans person deserves to die because they were on drugs. I fact, I rarely report drug usage in trans deaths. In this case however, some rationalization is needed to help explain the light sentence. Not the outcome I’d prefer, but there it is.

    As for “capitalizing”, I had not yet written anything on the sentencing. I did in fact report the initial murder. A judge commenting on the case IS news.

    The Washington Post, NBC News, or even TMZ isn’t going to wait until a family “digests” this information — why should writers in the trans community have to wait? There’s no media protocol here on waiting for the family. The issue is with the judge.

    Finally, miscarriage of justice, perhaps, but the judge made her ruling and there’s no appeal.

  5. As a victim of domestic violence, I’m really not comprehending why this would deserve a lighter sentence if classified as domestic violence. That also seems like victim blaming. Sort of like “well, they were in a relationship and she didn’t leave him, so she kind of deserved it”. So if they were strangers, then it would be a hate crime and a harsher sentence? Something just seems horrible about it either way. And her refusing to be transported by EMT may not have been about drugs. It may have been fear of, or threats from her abuser who didn’t want to be caught.
    I’m not criticizing you Lexie, I’m just upset with the sometimes arbitrary classifications we put on violence and the way our society views domestic violence.

  6. Yes, my main point though is that even if it is “just” domestic violence and not a hate crime, that’s absolutely no excuse for a lighter sentence. You seem to be ok with that, “one apparent reason for a lessor sentence”. But how is that justice for her or any victim of domestic violence for that matter? I understand and agree with the need for the classification of “hate crimes” in our society. But why should it be acceptable to have such a light sentence in the case of domestic violence? No wonder so much domestic violence goes unreported by victims! Either they are blamed, or no one believes them, or it’s considered partial “justice” when there’s just probation for a murder?

    • I’m not saying it’s OK, but you pretty much can’t top a hate crime charge. That said, with compelling evidence, killers in a domestic violence incident ought to be put away for a similarly lengthy time. In this case however, the evidence wasn’t compelling enough for an equally tough sentence. It’s not the victim’s fault. we can only go by what we’ve uncovered, and some of it appears to give the perp a chance at a walk.

      • I understand what you are saying. I’m not arguing with you, I’m arguing with our society on this one. It’s terrible to me that a theoretical jury wouldn’t convict someone who admitted to assault, even if there were drugs in her system. It’s also tragic to me that it shifts so dramatically from a hate crime to a lovers’ quarrel just because they were living together. This is why women should be more afraid of people they know than complete strangers. Women are raped, assaulted and murdered far more often by people they know. And I’m certainly no legal expert, but I think it’s definitely possible for a hate crime to be committed by someone you are living with.

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