CeCe McDonald trial is underway

More than 40 supporters gathered outside a Hennepin County courtroom this morning for the first scheduled trial date of Chrishaun "CeCe" McDonald, a transgender woman accused of murdering Dean Alvin Schmitz outside the Schooner Tavern last summer.

Though it's still in the jury selection phase, the case has already grabbed the attention of LGBT communities across the world that have come out in support of McDonald. Among those in attendance this morning included renowned transgender author Leslie Feinberg and Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.

McDonald faces two counts of second-degree murder. According to the charges: a group of people, including McDonald, encountered Schmitz and a friend outside the Schooner around midnight on June 5, 2011. Some words were exchanged, and a brawl broke out, during which McDonald was hit in the face with a glass. Schmitz pulled McDonald out of the melee, and a witness saw him step back, hold his hand to his shirt, and say, "You stabbed me." The witness heard McDonald reply, "Yes I did."

Schmitz died on scene from a stab wound to the chest. McDonald was treated for injuries to her face.

Advocates for McDonald call her the lucky survivor of an attack, and have petitioned for the Hennepin County Attorney's Office to drop the charges. They say Schmitz's group started the fight by yelling derogatory statements at McDonald, and by attacking McDonald with the glass. Read more at the support group's website.

The judge has banned anyone from wearing logos supporting McDonald in the courtroom, so many sported purple clothing today instead. Less than half of supporters in attendance this morning were actually allowed in the courtroom because of limited seating, which will likely be the case throughout the trial.

This morning's hearing mostly addressed housekeeping business in preparation for the trial. The court will reconvene this afternoon, and potential jurors will fill out court questionnaires. Jury selection will likely begin tomorrow morning, and opening statements are expected later in the week.

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