by Pamela Prasarttongosoth
Chanelle had told Natoyear Sherarrion, her friend of eight years, that she had been having nightmares that someone was going to hurt her, reported in newsweekly. Shortly thereafter, on Monday, November 20, Chanelle was found in the Watertown home of William Palmer, a 34 year old computer programmer, who allegedly strangled her to death. Palmer met with Roman Chanelle Pickett, a transgendered Black woman, and her twin sister, Gabrielle, at Playland one of Bostons original gay bars frequented mainly by men and drag queens located on Essex Street in the Combat Zone. Chanelle and Palmer had been seeing each other for some time and they had met at Playland on a number of occasions. Afterwards, all three went to Chanelle's apartment in Chelsea where she and Palmer snorted cocaine. Then, Palmer took Chanelle back to his home in Watertown where he strangled her to death in the early hours of the morning. Palmer slept for six hours with Chanelle's dead body lying beside his bed before he turned himself in to a lawyer who informed the police. Palmer is a regular drug user and drugs may have been involved in the murder of Chanelle. Both powder and crack cocaine were found at the scene of the crime. Nonetheless, with all of the evidence stacked against Palmer, he entered a not guilty plea to Judge Gregory Flynn of the Waltham District Court who released him on Friday, December 1, on a $50,000 cash bond. It is highly unusual for murderers to be released on bail. In light of Palmer's situation he was seen leaving Playland with Chanelle and her body was found in his home it seems extremely unreasonable that he would not be held behind bars until his case goes to trial. The Middlesex District Attorney asked that Palmer be held without bail because of the seriousness of his offense. As a compromise, Palmer is required to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet, be subjected to random drug testing, meet with a probation officer weekly, and is barred from contact with any witnesses in his case. A status hearing is scheduled for December 19, but Palmer will most likely be indicted for murder by a grand jury before that date and face the possibility of receiving a life sentence for his crime. The murder is not being treated as a hate crime however, which would carry a weightier treatment by the D.A. and the threat of a harsher punishment. Chanelle, a native of New York, was only 23 when she was brutally killed. Friends say that she really liked Palmer and wanted to have a more serious relationship with him. Palmer had written a letter to Chanelle expressing his affection for her. He had promised to help her get back on her feet and to take care of her, Veronica Caoile told in newsweekly. Earlier in the year, Chanelle had been fired from her job at NYNEX, allegedly because of her transsexualism and because she stood up to co-workers who subjected her to gender harassment For his defense case, Palmer is claiming that the murder of Chanelle was justified, saying that he did not know she was male until the night of the murder. Murderers often use the homosexual panic defense to justify the killing of gay people. They claim that they are overwhelmed with an uncontrollable rage as a result of the fact that their victims made passes at them. Reportedly, half of all homicides based on anti-gay or -lesbian bias have resulted from a pick-up situation. Overall, the problem of murders based on homophobic sentiment looms large: on record, 59 people were killed in 1994 because they were perceived as lesbian or gay. However, the actual number of anti-gay bias related deaths is probably much higher because there is a significant amount of underreporting of hate crimes against queers, people of color, and women. While the psychiatric profession and legal experts have discredited this line of defense, offenders continue to use it because it serves the purpose of establishing their heterosexuality and also rouses homophobic sentiment amongst members of the jury. A clever defense lawyer can paint a picture of the victim of the murder as a predatory homosexual monster who dupes his or her prey into having sex. In reality, though, having someone express a romantic interest in you is no reason to get worked up in the slightest and is certainly no justification for murder. What would happen if lesbians and gays killed every ignorant, heterosexist man or woman who made sexual advances towards them? Chanelle's friends are wary of reporters because of the media's unfair presentation of the murder, something which has also angered transgendered activists. They organized a candlelight vigil onSunday, December 10 at the Arlington Street Church in Boston in Chanelle's memory. Chanelle's murder has been and most likely will be treated unfairly by the police, legal system, and the media because she was a transgendered Black woman. Neither the police nor the mainstream media have highlighted Palmer's sexuality. Instead they have portrayed him as an average white-collar guy who was an upstanding member of his community. On the other side, they have failed to portray Chanelle as a human being who was a valued member of society. In a front-page story, the Boston Herald described Palmer as a polite, clean-cut preppy. The article went on to describe the murder sympathetically, as the only natural reaction any self-respecting, red-blooded, heterosexual man would have. If Palmer is set free, it will only confirm the twisted societal message that a gay person's life, a drag queen's life especially that of a Black drag queen is worthless. Murdering certain people is acceptable; some people are expendable and not worth defending. If we are to believe Palmer's story, his attraction to Chanelle, and Chanelle's very existence as another human being on this planet, upset his white-collar sensibilities to the point where her death was both justifiable and necessary. Sherarrion expressed sadness and anger about Chanelle's murder and the fact that her young life was cut short so violently, telling in newsweekly, She was a good, sweet, loving person. She didn't get her chance to shine. God didn't take my Chanelle, he [Palmer] did...and he won't get the punishment he deserves.