Hear Me! My Name is Catherine!
Legally a Woman, Jailed Among Men

On The Record with Catherine Carlson

Catherine Carlson in Payette Country JailA small and fragile transgender woman sits behind bars in solitary in a men’s section of an Idaho county jail for crimes sparked by years of mental and emotional torture brought on my a malicious parent, cruel state actions, and a savage legal system that refuses to recognize the most personal part of an individual’s identity, gender.

Meet Catherine Carlson, a 56-year-old, on her way to prison after years of what she describes as being terrorized by her family, the State of Idaho and the police.

Read her story and listen to Catherine’s emotional courtroom testimony and exclusive jailhouse interviews of why she says she finally came to the end of her rope and snapped.

On July 11, 2010 she set fire to her home and truck and was later arrested walking down the highway naked.

Convicted of first-degree arson, possession of a hoax destructive devise and indecent exposure, Catherine is facing up to 40 years in prison.

In this compelling and heart-wrenching story about one woman’s quest for simple respect and human dignity, Catherine talks exclusively to investigative journalist, Jody May-Chang from the Payette Country Jail as she awaits sentencing.

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Earlier Reporting On This Story:

Catherine Carlson Found Guilty On All Charges

It took the jury of five women and seven men one hour to come to a verdict, finding 56 year-old Catherine Carlson guilty of first degree arson, possessing a hoax destructive device and indecent exposure.

After the verdict Carlson’s attorney Phillip Heersink said that although he “was not overly surprised” he was still “disappointed” by the decision.

Against Heersink’s advice, Carlson took the stand as the only witness for the defense. Extremely thin and gaunt, the weathered looking Carlson began her testimony restrained and respectful. She responded to her attorney’s questions regarding the events leading up to her July 11, 2010 arrest.

During cross-examination Payette Country prosecutor Anne Marie Kelso’s, line of questioning agitated Carlson. It got particularly emotional during the following exchange between Carlson and Kelso. Continue reading

Payette Woman: “You Want to Know Why this Mobile Home Went Up in Flames?”

Boise Weekly City Desk Jody May-Chang

By Jody May-Chang
Originally published on BoiseWeekly.com Aug. 26, 2010

Catherine Carlson, arrested in Payette last month for setting fire to the trailer where she lived and placing what looked like four pipe booms on her stoop, was moved in late July from isolation in the Payette County Jail to the Idaho State Hospital in Orofino where she remains for an undetermined period of time.

Payette County Prosecutor Anne-Marie Kelso told CityDesk that although she could not talk specifically about Carlson because of medical privacy laws, explained that when a judge commits someone it is because the court suspects mental illness and the defendant is likely to hurt themself or others.

“Everything is stayed right now. Once she is out of the mental hospital they will complete the physiological evaluation regarding the issue of whether she can assist her attorney and only then can we proceed,” said Kelso.

Charged with felony first degree arson and using a hoax destructive device, Carlson faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted.

“I can’t say for sure,” said Kelso, “but it would be very unlikely to ask for the maximum sentence.”

Carlson said her case boils down to one thing: respect for her identity as a woman. In 1980 Carlson had sexual reassignment surgery to become a woman. As one of several pre-conditions for surgery, Carlson had her name legally changed. However despite her efforts to get it removed, Idaho state records list Carlson’s former male name as an a.k.a. Continue reading