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A transgender woman was killed in South Carolina. Why this hate crime case is historic.

In the first federal hate trial of its kind, a jury will decide the fate of a man who prosecutors say killed a transgender woman because of her gender identity.

Veronica Hill, public affairs specialist with the U.S. Attorney's Office in South Carolina, said Tuesday that the gender-based hate trial of Daqua Ritter is a first for a federal jury.

A federal grand jury indicted Ritter for the Aug. 4, 2019 murder of Dime Doe, a transgender woman. If convicted of the hate crime, Ritter could face a maximum life sentence. Prosecutors declined to seek the death penalty, according to an August court document.

Prosecutors in South Carolina referred the case to federal investigators, Hill said, because the state lacks a hate crime law. Several bills have been introduced in the state to create such a law but each failed in the state senate, according to Greenville News, part of the USA TODAY NETWORK.

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South Carolina is one of two states in the country to lack a hate crime law; Wyoming is the other.

Hill said a Mississippi man is serving a 49-year prison sentence for a plea deal he reached with federal prosecutors on the killing of a 17-year-old transgender woman. Ritter's case differs in that federal jurors will hear evidence.

Along with the hate crime, Ritter faces murder and witness intimidation charges, according to court records.

Xavier Pinckney, who the jury also indicted in the case, entered a plea agreement on two obstruction of justice charges, which the U.S. Attorney's Office of South Carolina said in October.

“The defendant is being held accountable for trying to obstruct an investigation into the tragic murder of a Black transgender woman,” Kristen Clarke, assistant attorney general of the DOJ's Civil Rights Division, said in October.

Prosecutors accuse man of targeting trans woman

Prosecutors allege Ritter fatally shot Doe in the head because of her gender identity.

"In July 2019, the defendant’s sexual relationship with the victim was revealed to his friends and girlfriend," U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Breon Peace wrote in a court filing. "The defendant was extremely upset that his sexual relationship was revealed."

Peace added Ritter's friends mocked him for the relationship and used anti-LGBTQ+ slurs and misidentified Doe.

He said Ritter persuaded Doe to drive into a rural South Carolina county where he shot her three times, according to court documents.

Prosecutors also alleged Ritter knowingly misled law enforcement and other investigators in South California about Doe's death. They allege that he made false statements about his contact with Doe and being in her car during a traffic stop.

Ritter was arrested in New York State and transferred to South Carolina. Peace alleged that Ritter fled when he knew state officials were investigating Doe's death.

"After murdering the victim, the defendant worked with others to burn the clothes that he wore the day of the murder and hide the murder weapon," Peace wrote. "He went on to lie about his whereabouts the day of the murder to state law enforcement and asked another to do the same on his behalf."

Contributing: Kayla Jimenez, USA TODAY; Devyani Chhetri, Greenville News.

Contact reporter Krystal Nurse at knurse@USATODAY.com. Follow her on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, @KrystalRNurse.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: How the case over a transgender woman's killing is making history