Woman who shot dead transgender friend claims self-defence, gets 100 days in jail

(Flickr/Brian Turner)

A woman who shot dead her transgender friend in Portland, Oregon, was sentenced to 100 days in jail on Thursday.

Sophia Adler, 33, was charged with the murder of 28-year-old Gigi Pierce, which took place in a street on May 21 following an altercation between the two.

Pierce, who had begun the process of transitioning last July, was the 11th trans woman to be killed in the US this year. Those who knew her remembered her as a talented person who had “so much potential” and was “just full of life, always trying to help somebody.”

Adler initially pleaded not guilty and appeared in front of a seven-member grand jury who decided she should not be charged with murder.

Multnomah County senior deputy district attorney J.R. Ujifusa, who prosecuted this case, said in a statement to the press that the authorities never considered the case to be a hate crime.

“Ms. Adler and Gigi were friends. They had known each other for years. The question we needed to answer was whether this was a murder or a case of self-defence,” he said.

Sophia Adler (Multnomah County Jail)

“The Portland Police Bureau conducted a meticulous investigation to answer that question. After reviewing all of the available evidence, and analysing Oregon’s self-defence laws, the grand jury determined Ms. Adler should not be charged with murder,” he added.

Adler was instead charged with unlawful possession of a firearm as she did not possess a concealed handgun licence for the .45 caliber Hi-Point pistol that killed Pierce, even though the gun was purchased legally.

Adler pleaded guilty to that charge and claimed she fired the gun in self-defence because Pierce was holding a knife and tried to stab her during the confrontation. Police found a knife on the ground next to Pierce.

“Ms. Adler told police she was ‘scared’ when she saw the knife coming towards her face so she fired her pistol once while it was still inside her purse,” Ujifusa said, noting that Adler remained at the scene after the authorities arrived and was cooperative throughout the investigation.

Activists protest transphobic hate crimes in Chicago (Scott Olson/Getty)

Multnomah County circuit court judge Patrick W. Henry accepted Adler’s guilty plea and sentenced her to 100 days in jail with credit for time served. She also received 24 months of formal probation and was required to undergo mental health and substance abuse evaluations and participate in any treatment as ordered. She will not be able to contact Pierce’s family, unless approved by her probation officer.

“For Sophia, we ask that you turn your life around—that you get the help for your addiction that you have struggled with—that you get the mental health treatment that you truly need and that you try with everything in the future…to be productive in society, to be clean and sober and to find a home and better yourself,” an unnamed family member of the victim told the court via conference call during the sentence hearing.

Multnomah County District Attorney Rod Underhill said: “Gigi’s death had a profound impact on our community. It was clear to us that Gigi was loved by many, and that she will be missed by her family and friends. I hope with time and understanding, there will begin to be some sort of closure for those impacted by this terrible event.”