The LGBT community watched the sentencing of Joshua Vallum in the 2015 killing of 17-year-old Mercedes Williamson in Mississippi It was the first case prosecuted under the Federal Hate Crimes Prevention Act involving a victim targeted because of gender identity.
Prosecutors alleged Vallum shocked Mercedes Williamson with a stun gun, stabbed her and beat her to death in 2015 to keep fellow Latin Kings gang members from discovering the two were having sex. Gang rules barred homosexual activity and declared it punishable by death. Because of a plea agreement citing Vallum’s neglected childhood and other issues, he was awarded a reduced sentence. Courtesy Smithsonian Magazine