Free Ky Peterson
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We demand justice for Ky Peterson, a Black transgender man incarcerated in Georgia for defending himself against transphobic sexual violence. We call upon Governor Nathan Deal and the State Board of Pardons & Paroles to pardon and release Ky Peterson now!
Ky Peterson grew up in a small South Georgia farming town. Though Ky struggled for acceptance as a transgender man, he had the love of his family. Ky worked hard to support his mom and three younger siblings and volunteered at an assisted living home and the American Red Cross in his free time.
On October 28, 2011, the life that Ky Peterson knew came to an end. Ky and his younger brothers walked to a neighborhood convenience store. After making his purchase, he waited outside for them. Ky was approached by a man who made sexual advances toward him. When Ky asked the man to leave him alone, the man uttered derogatory insults as he drove away. Ky told his brothers that he was walking home first, leaving them to follow. As he passed an abandoned trailer, the same man who had approached Ky earlier attacked him from behind. He dragged Ky into the abandoned trailer and sexually assaulted him. Ky fought back in self-defense, which ultimately led to his attacker’s death.
Ky's brothers were walking past the trailer when they heard the attack. As Ky was injured and in shock, the boys panicked and attempted to cover up the incident. The following day, when police came to question them, Ky told them about the attack. The police arrested all of them, charging them with armed robbery and first-degree murder, and threatened to charge the teens as adults.
When it became apparent that Ky was injured, the police took him to a local medical center where he was tested with a rape kit. The nurse who performed the examination confirmed that Ky had been brutally raped, yet she felt the need to point out that Ky “didn't act like a woman who had been raped.”
After Ky was examined, the police returned him to Sumter County jail where he sat for nearly a year with no word about his case. Ky should have had a Victim Advocate and received treatment for his physical and emotional injuries. Instead, Sumter County left a rape victim to rot in jail because he doesn’t present as a woman and wasn’t perceived as a victim as a trans man.
Ky’s rape kit came back positive, confirming his recent sexual assault. An autopsy performed by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation confirmed that Ky's DNA was found on the dead man's genitals. This exculpatory evidence, which proves Ky’s innocence, was ignored. Ky should have been protected under Georgia’s Stand Your Ground Law, but instead, he continues to be punished for defending his own life.
When asked by The Advocate why Ky was not permitted to plead self-defense, Ky's public defender recounted telling him, "Number One, you're African-American.” He continued that Ky appeared “stereotypically gay,” arguing against a Stand Your Ground defense because “that's two strikes against us from the get-go.” Eventually, the county reduced Ky’s charge to involuntary manslaughter, offering a plea “bargain” of 20 years -- a sentence 10 years longer than Georgia law mandates. Like many caught in the Georgia legal system, Ky was bullied into signing this plea “deal.” Ky was criminalized by the racism of his public defender, transphobic treatment from the hospital, the unlawful sentence, and countless negligent actions of Sumter County, including prosecutorial misconduct, selective prosecution, and ineffective counsel.
Ky has suffered tremendous injustices due to racial and gender biases. We ask Governor Nathan Deal and the State Board of Pardons & Paroles to pardon and release Kyle Peterson, who continues to suffer dehumanizing treatment from prison staff for being openly transgender. Over the last 3 years, Ky has publicly shared his story to help raise awareness and visibility for the victims of transphobic sexual violence. With the help of our friends in the media, and organizations like TRANScending Barriers Atlanta, Survived And Punished, Black & Pink, and Southerners on New Ground, we are thankful to have gained supporters across the globe. If he is pardoned and released, Ky hopes to build a future in trans advocacy by continuing to share his story and fighting for victims’ rights.
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