Jeff Sessions said transgender murders will be reviewed to ensure hate crimes against the group are being "aggressively and appropriately" enforced and that there isn't a serial killer or a group behind some of the deaths which have nearly doubled.
The U.S. Attorney General, speaking during the 2017 Hate Crimes Summit, vowed to prosecute hate crimes and specifically pointed out his office's effort to tackle murders of transgender people, according to Politico on Thursday.
"We have and will continue to enforce hate crime laws aggressively and appropriately where transgendered individuals are victims," said Sessions, according to his prepared remarks. "Last month, Joshua Brandon Vallum was sentenced to 49 years in prison for assaulting and murdering Mercedes Williamson. This is the first case prosecuted under the Hate Crimes Prevention Act involving the murder of a transgender person."
Sessions said he met with the Justice Department's senior leadership and the civil rights division to talk about an increase of murders nationwide involving transgender individuals. USA Today reported that murders of transgender women jumped from 16 in 2014 to 27 last year.
The Human Rights Campaign said 14 transgender people, mostly women, have been murdered already this year.
"I have directed the civil rights division to work with the United States attorney's offices and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to identify ways the department can support the state and local law enforcement authorities investigating these incidents and to determine whether federal action would be appropriate," Sessions said.
"I specifically directed that the files of these cases be reviewed to ensure that there is no single person or group behind these murders or to what extent hate crime motivation lies behind such murders. I receive regular updates on the status of that review."
David Stacy, government affairs director for the Human Rights Campaign, told USA Today that Sessions needs to follow up his comments with action.
"Now that Jeff Sessions is finally recognizing the national epidemic of violent hate crimes against transgender people, it is critical that the Department of Justice enhance its efforts to investigate, prosecute and deter these horrible crimes,'' Stacy commented.
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