Black transpeople having negative and unjust encounters with the justice system is sadly not limited to our sister Cece McDonald. While we are justifiably outraged about Ms. McDonald having to serve 41 months in jail for basically defending herself, imagine being in jail 40 years for two crimes you didn't commit.
Meet Valjean Royal, who was born in East Chicago, Indiana in 1953. After a nightmarish childhood that included being molested and forced into being a child pron model by an uncle, being sent to a mental institution to 'cure' her of being trans, and being sexually assaulted in another jail, Royal found herself on the mean streets of East Chicago, IN, the south side of Chicago, Gary, IN, Detroit and Indianapolis doing survival sex work and as a nightclub dancer trying to get out of that situation and become the woman she was and desperately wanted to project to the world.
But an unsolved 1972 Indianapolis murder of church deacon James Burse would eventually throw another major complication into Valjean's life.
Royal found herself arrested on June 9, 1973 for being in a bar while underage. That same fateful night Walter Banks was arrested by the Indianapolis Police and suspected of first degree murder.. Banks told the Indianapolis police during his interrogation that the 'he/she' knew something about the unsolved murder of Burse.
Everybody involved in the street life in Indy knew something about that case, because Burse was killed while passing out religious pamphlets and his body was found stuffed in a car trunk with a gunshot wound to his head. Royal was asked by a Detective Dunn about it and initially denied she knew nothing more about the Burse case than anyone else.
But after slipping into depression while serving her 30 days for the underage bar arrest and fighting thoughts of suicide, Royal inexplicably summoned the investigator once again and made up a story confessing to a crime she didn't commit. She was arrested, convicted of manslaughter as a result of her confession and sentenced to 2-21 years in prison.
Royal managed to stay out of trouble and with good behavior, was on the verge of getting paroled in 1977 when buzzards luck struck again in 1976. She was working in the laundry area and was sick in her bunk on the day an Indian Sate Prison guard working that area was killed.
She was unfortunately fingered for that murder, went to trial for it in 1978 and on the strength of the questionable testimony of three inmates in front of an all white jury in Valparaiso, IN and was convicted of another murder she didn't commit.
It's past time that the Royal case was reopened and justice be served in this case, especially since it hasn't been served far too many times in her life.