A California judge has ruled that a transgender rights activist was sane when they brutally killed a family at their home in Oakland in 2016.
Dana Rivers, 67, who is transgender, was convicted in November of murdering Charlotte Reed, 56, her wife Patricia Wright, 57, and Wright’s son Benny Toto Diambu-Wright, 19.
Last week, Alameda County Judge Scott Patton ruled that the activist was “sane” when they conducted the gruesome triple slaying, which involved shooting and stabbing the victims.
“The facts of this case indicate planning, sophistication and a systematic effort to cover up the crime,” Judge Scott Patton said in the decision, “as opposed to a triggering event that led to a spontaneous violent unknowing act.”
The judge’s decision means that Rivers will spend the rest of their life in prison.
The Berkeley Scanner reports, “Rivers, a 67-year-old transgender woman from San Jose, initially entered a not-guilty plea in the case, but later amended her plea to not guilty by reason of insanity, arguing in part that she committed the killings during a PTSD episode where something had triggered her.”
“During the 2016 murders, Patricia Wright and Charlotte Reed were shot and stabbed repeatedly,” the report explained. “Benny Wright was shot in the torso. He made it outside their home in the 9400 block of Dunbar Drive, shirtless and in pajama pants, but collapsed unresponsive in the street.”
A neighbor heard the gunfire and called the police.
When officers arrived, Rivers was covered in blood, smelled of gasoline, and a fire was burning in the house’s garage. The fire department put the fire out before it spread through the house.
Once Rivers was convicted by a jury, the case went into a “sanity phase” overseen by the judge. The court hired three forensic psychologists to evaluate Rivers, and only one found that they were not sane.
One psychologist, Amy Watt, noted that Rivers knew right from wrong based on their statements to the police. “When she was arrested,” Watt testified, “she told the arresting officers that she knew she was in trouble.”
“She knew she was in trouble,” Watts continued, “which meant that she knew right from wrong.”
The judge said that this piece of the evaluation was particularly compelling.
Mercury News reports, “before her arrest, Rivers was best known as a schoolteacher who became an international news story when she came out as transgender to her students in a high school in the Sacramento County community of Antelope. She was subsequently fired for sharing details of her transition, then sued the district and received $150,000 in a settlement. In the aftermath, she became an activist for transgender rights, and ultimately moved to the Bay Area to restart her life as an educator.”