A transgender inmate who unsuccessfully tried to challenge Florida’s prison laws was found dead in her cell under mysterious circumstances, reports the Miami Herald.
Justin Lee Naber, a convicted killer, was found dead in a cell at the Dade Correctional Institution, a prison with a history of being the subject of several investigations in the past. She had challenged the Florida Department of Corrections to allow her to change her name to “Stacy Lorraine Naber,” arguing that her male name did not fit her gender.
A spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Corrections confirmed that Naber had died but refused to divulge more details about the death.
“Inmate Naber was pronounced deceased on August 6, 2016. At the time of the inmate’s death, he was in administrative housing at Dade Correctional Institution and was housed alone. The death is currently under investigation by [the Florida Department of Law Enforcement], with assistance from the department’s Office of the Inspector General.”
Naber’s 60-year-old aunt, Lee Kahn, who preferred to refer to her nephew by her birth name and gender, said that although she had been informed that Naber committed suicide by hanging herself, something about the way the death had transpired did not make complete sense.
“He was in protective custody, and yet he managed to hang himself… It struck me as odd.
I always thought Justin would never grow old in prison. You can’t be in that kind of place, and draw attention to yourself. And not just the prisoners, but the guards as well… We’re not really getting the answers.”
Naber made headlines in 2013 when she was convicted of stabbing her roommate to death over an argument about rent money two years earlier. She was sentenced to a life in prison. Later, she was linked with the 2005 death of an elderly man in Albuquerque by some media outlets, although she was never prosecuted for it.
While serving her life sentence at Okeechobee Correctional Institution, the transgender inmate filed a complaint in federal court asking a judge to order the Florida Department of Corrections to allow her to change her birth name to “Stacy Lorraine Naber.”
After she filed the complaint, Naber was moved to Dade. In the complaint, Naber’s attorney argued that his client should be allowed to change the name on grounds of such an act providing psychological relief to a subject of gender identity disorder.
“Inmate Naber has a gender identity disorder and identifies exclusively as a female person. Inmate Naber experiences severe mental anguish as inmate Naber is prohibited by law [from changing] his/her name to Stacy Lorraine Naber,” read the complaint.
In March of 2015, the American Civil Liberties Union adopted Naber’s lawsuit and expanded the complaint to a 24-page document that raised questions about the prison system’s willingness to accommodate transgender inmates. Naber and her attorneys argued that she should be allowed to change her name because that would basically amount to psyhological therapy in her case.
“[Naber] is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole, her rights will never be restored, and thus she can never obtain a legal name change or be recognized by the name that accords with her gender identity for the remainder of her life.
Though for a non-transgender person the adoption of a new name might be a matter of preference, for transgender people, a change of name is a form of medical treatment.”
The Florida Department of Corrections did not agree with Naber. They argued that allowing Naber to change her traditional male name to a female one could cause serious security problems, and that the case was of “legitimate penological interests of security and administration” to FDC.
Now that Justin Lee Naber is not there, the suit is to be dropped. Daniel Tilley, the Florida transgender inmate’s attorney, asked U.S. District Judge Robin L. Rosenberg, who was presiding over Naber’s lawsuit, to dismiss the case.
“Plaintiff’s counsel writes to inform the court that Plaintiff Stacy Naber (legal name Justin Naber) has died,” Tilley wrote in a notice. “At the request of Ms. Naber’s authorized legal representative, Plaintiff’s counsel files this notice of voluntary dismissal.”
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