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The Trans Panic Defense Revisited
American Criminal Law Review  (IF3.455),  Pub Date : 2020-09-01, DOI:
Cynthia Lee

Violence against transgender individuals in general, and trans women of color in particular, is a significant problem in the United States today. When a man is charged with murdering a transgender woman, a common defense strategy is to assert what is called the trans panic defense. The trans panic defense is not a tra-ditional criminal law defense. Nor, despite its name, is it recognized as a stand- alone defense. Rather, trans panic is a defense strategy associated with the prov-ocation or heat of passion defense. A murder defendant asserting trans panic will claim that the discovery that the victim was a transgender female—an individual who identifies as a woman but was thought to be male when born—provoked him into a heat of passion, causing him to lose his self-control. If the jury finds that the defendant was actually provoked into a heat of passion and that the ordinary man in the defendant’s shoes would have been so provoked, it can acquit him of murder and find him guilty of a lesser offense.