Majid Kolestani trial

June 4, 2009

majid-kolestani_timesnews-sIn April, I wrote (link here) about the mistreatment of trans women by prison staff at the Twin Falls County Jail in Idaho.

The abuses meted out to Majid Kolestani in particular seemed like a string of human rights abuses: police officers alleged that Ms Kolestani was guilty of first-degree murder as well as denied her access to prescribed hormone therapies. They even refused to supply her with a bra – given that Ms Kolestani has been undergoing hormone therapy for over five years, this seems like an especially vindictive and small-minded punishment by the prison authorities, who were well aware of her gender identity.

In addition, the local media – notably The Twin Falls newspaper (and some of the local tv stations) continually misgendered Ms Kolestani in their coverage, to the extent that Ms Kolestani’s attorneys unsuccessfully requested to have Ms Kolestani’s trial moved to another county due to the negative publicity surrounding the case.

This week, the case finally reached the courtroom. Via the Twin Falls Times-News:

Majid Kolestani fought to wear women’s clothes during a murder trial, but in the end, won’t dress for it at all.

The 42-year-old transgender Iranian refugee who identifies as a woman pleaded guilty on Monday in Twin Falls 5th District Court to first-degree murder in a plea agreement that will likely send Kolestani to prison for 18 years to life.

Through a Farsi-speaking translator, Kolestani, 42, who also uses the first name Nastaran, requested identification as a woman from the court. Kolestani recently won permission from the court in May to
dress in women’s attire at a trial originally scheduled for later this month.

Kolestani shared few details Monday on the method or motivation behind the Aug. 25, 2008, murder of former housemate and fellow Iranian refugee Ehsan Velayati Kababian.

“I murdered Ehsan by shooting him,” Kolestani told the court. “In order to gain knowledge about the rest of the charges you can read the indictment.”

The murder was motivated by jealousy over another woman who Kababian was romancing in Iran, a mutual friend of the Iranian refugees told the Times-News.

A neighbor told authorities in court records that he saw a tall, blonde woman approach a parked car, shoot the driver in the head, and then run away as the vehicle careened into a house along Fifth Avenue East in Twin Falls.

Law enforcement authorities first identified the killer as a woman in the murder case.

Hormones taken “because of the sex change” do not affect judgment or the ability to enter a plea, Kolestani told the court Monday.

“I decided on my own,” Kolestani told the court about the decision to plead guilty.

In exchange for the guilty plea, prosecutors will drop a weapons enhancement, officials said Monday.

Judge Randy Stoker will abide by the sentencing recommendations in the plea agreement, he said Monday.

A sentencing hearing is set for July 10.

KMVT’s report on their website (link here) continues the local media’s spiteful misgendering of Ms Kolestani during its look at the likely accommodation in which she will be constrained. Unfortunately for the “journalist”, one C. Lemmon, I can haz a text editor – my amendments are in [square brackets]…

[…] Once Judge Randy Stoker sentences Kolestani to an agreed upon 18 to 20 years in prison, [she’ll] be turned over to the Idaho Department of Correction.

It will be up to the IDOC to decide where [she’ll] be housed, but Tuesday [Twin Falls County
Prosecutor Grant Loeb] confirmed for KMVT – that Kolestani will not be able to be housed with either the male, or female, general prison population.

[…]

Prior to yesterday’s plea agreement Kolestani was told [she] could wear women’s clothing and undergarments at [her] jury trial.

Loebs says for sentencing — Kolestani will wear an orange county jail jumpsuit and will not be wearing female attire.

It’s uncertain if this is the first Idaho prison who is considered ‘trans–gendered’ by some definitions.

Regardless of what crimes Ms Kolestani is charged, I maintain that she is entitled to basic human rights, as we all are (or should be). The embarrassingly cissexist reaction of C. Lemmon merely diminishes hir professional credibility as an unbiased reporter.

One might have thought that the prospect of spending the next two decades locked away in some form of isolation cell, resisting a concerted attempt by the state generally to crush your spirit, as well as being denied essential medical services and other human rights, would be punishment enough. But apparently not, in the minds of some people for whom the phrase “small town, small mind” may well have been coined.

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2 Responses to “Majid Kolestani trial”

  1. gina morvay Says:

    Thanks for the article, but just to clarify, her name for the past 10 years has been Nastaran (an Persian woman’s name). Majid was her male birth name, and the name she was repeatedly called by media. I don’t dismiss Ms. Kolestani from her actions, but this was a classic crime of passion. It’s my hope her prison time served will be shorter than 18 years and she’ll be able to salvage her life and find some joy. Furthermore, I truly hope the Idaho penal system knows there will be people watching out for her welfare and treatment while she’s in prison.

  2. Helen G Says:

    gina: Thanks for the clarification about Ms Kolestani’s name, I’ll keep it in mind for any future posts.

    And I hope the Idaho DoC and the prison staff respect her human rights without delay.


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