Mistrial Declared After Death of Transgender Woman, Zella Ziona

A Montgomery County jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict Friday in the murder trial of a man who was charged with the October 2015 shooting death of a transgender woman.

Rico LeBlond was charged with first-degree murder in the death of Zella Ziona, 21.

Ziona was found in an alley in Gaithersburg, Maryland, with gunshot wounds to the head and groin. She later died at a hospital.

LeBlond had known Ziona since middle school.

Prosecutors told the jury LeBlond attacked Ziona, because he was embarrassed after she flirted with him in front of his male friends, WTOP reported.

Police had been called to the scene shortly before the shooting death to break up a fight in which Ziona was hit with a stick.

Later that night, police believe Ziona was lured to the alley, where she was shot.


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Defense attorney David Felsen said police gave “substantially different descriptions of the person or people with guns who were fleeing the scene,” WTOP reported.

After three days of deliberation, the jury deadlocked 10-2 in favor of conviction. Judge Anne Albright declared a mistrial, WTOP reported. 

A spokesman for the state attorney’s office said prosecutors plan to retry the case this summer. 

Family members had sought hate crime charges against LeBlond.

Transgender people face an increased rate of violence, and more transgender people were killed in 2015 -- 21 people -- than in any other year on record, according to the Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy organization.

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