On Wednesday, a D.C. Superior Court jury found a Northeast D.C. man accused of fatally stabbing transgender woman Deoni Jones in the head not guilty of first-degree murder while armed.
Gary Niles Montgomery, 60, was accused of stabbing Jones, then 23, while she waited for a bus at the corner of East Capitol Street and Sycamore Road NE on the evening of Feb. 2, 2012. Witnesses who saw the attack told police they saw a man matching Montgomery’s description strike Jones in the head, causing her to fall to the ground. Passerby pursued and temporarily detained the man, who later escaped after witnesses realized Jones was in need of urgent medical treatment.
Paramedics rushed Jones to Prince George’s County Hospital Center in Cheverly, Md., where she died of her injuries several hours later.
Montgomery’s mental state was frequently an issue hindering the progress of the case against him for five years, with his lawyers claiming that he was not competent to stand trial. Five separate times during the period from 2012 to 2015, Montgomery was subjected to a mental health screenings and found competent to stand trial four times, and incompetent once.
But once his trial started, Montgomery’s lawyers disputed witnesses’ ability to positively identify him as Jones’ assailant. Prosecutors had also been unable to provide a motive for why Montgomery allegedly killed Jones, and there was no clear-cut evidence that Jones was targeted because of her transgender status.
Because there were no other charges filed against him, Montgomery has been released from custody and is now a free man.
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia declined to comment on the verdict.
Montgomery’s lawyer did not return a request for comment as of press time.
The verdict, and the short duration of the trial, caught many local LGBTQ leaders by surprise.
Lourdes Ashley Hunter, of the Trans Women of Color Collective, said that the “not guilty” verdict was “indicative of how trans lives are disposable, not just here in the District, but all over the country.”
“It’s tragic, but this is the kind of city we live in. They can’t see the bias we live with on a daily basis.” said Ruby Corado, a transgender activist and the founder of the LGBTQ direct services center Casa Ruby. “It’s a tragedy.”