Laverne Cox Stands with Monica Jones as Defence Files Appeal

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Monica Jones, who, in April, was found guilty of manifesting prostitution, asked the Arizona Supreme Court to overturn her conviction on Tuesday, August 5th.

Jones was charged under Phoenix Municipal Code Section 23-52(A)(3), "manifest[ing] an intent to commit or solicit an act of prostitution." In May, 2013, she accepted a ride from an undercover police officer who claims that her behaviour indicated she was involved in prostitution. The police officer’s story relies heavily on the fact that she was wearing a tight-fitting black dress. Jones states that she simply accepted a ride from a handsome stranger. Her attorneys say that Jones’ conviction relies too heavily upon the assumptions of the police officer.

In the appeal brief, Jones’ attorneys wrote: "Is it impermissible to flirt with someone on the street or in a car? Sell coffee in a bathing suit in a place open to public view? Hail a cab? Wear a 'tight fitting black dress'? It is difficult to imagine how anyone on a Phoenix street (or in a car) would know if he or she were violating the Code," Cabou wrote. "It criminalizes ordinary people, doing ordinary things--things like walking a certain way and asking certain questions--which they cannot know are against the law."

Her attorneys filed an appeal saying that the Phoenix ordinance, which outlaws the intent to buy or sell sex, is unconstitutional in that it criminalises protected rights of free speech, and that it discriminates against marginalised people.

"If I was a white woman walking down Arcadia, I would have never been stopped for manifestation," Jones told reporters on Tuesday. "This law gives police the right to target anyone they feel fit to target."

Laverne Cox, an Emmy-nominated actress and trans woman of colour, was in Phoenix on Tuesday to support Jones and to thank her for bringing attention to an important issue.

"All over the country, trans women are targeted simply for being who they are," Cox said.

“So often our identities as trans women of colour are stigmatised and criminalised … I was so moved by (her) courage … and I just felt I had to be here to lend my voice and whatever platform I have. I think that the goal should be to overturning laws like this and really understanding the kind of environment that we all are creating as citizens of this country for trans women, particularly trans women of colour.”

Cox had previously drawn attention to the case at the GLAAD Media Awards in April.