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Transgenders: We Ho to March vs. Hate as No Cal Jury Deliberates

by Carolina Thursday, Jun. 10, 2004 at 7:19 PM

As a jury in Hayward decides the fate of 3 accused in the Transgender "Emmet Till" murder case, West Hollywood anti-hate activists will march Friday evening.

As a Northern California jury began deliberating the case of the 2002 brutal murder of a 17 year old Transgender woman that has drawn nation-wide attention, Transgenders, Lesbians, Gays and their supporters are planning their 8th Annual Walk Against Hate this Friday, June 11, 2004 at 8 PM at West Hollywood Park (in front of the swimming pool, along San Vicente)

647 N. San Vicente Blvd.

West Hollywood, California





The annual " Walk Against Hate" vigil works to raise awareness about hate crimes and incidents.



This year's event will focus attention on the high number of anti-Transgender hate crimes and the violence faced by Transgender men and women everyday, which is exemplified by the Northern California murder of Gwen Araujo.

According to the the LA County Commission on Human Relations, 88% of anti-Transgender hate crimes are violent and end in physical injury to the victim. Organizers urge the public to join the vigil to raise awareness and eliminate hate motivated violent crimes, and to REPORT ALL HATE CRIMES AND INCIDENTS BY CALLING 911!

The event is sponsored by the West Hollywood Mayor and City Council, WH Transgender Task Force, WH Sheriff's Gay/Lesbian Conference Committee,

Bienestar Community Services, Inc, the LA Gay & Lesbian Center's Anti-Violence Project, and Deputies and Staff from the WH Sheriff's Station

****

Meanwhile, about 400 miles to the north, the Gwen Araujo murder case has become for the Transgender community as important as the Emmet Till lynching case in the 1950's was to the black civil rights movement.

Transgender activists fear that the jury might accept the defense attorneys' arguments that the three assailants on trial for Gwen's murder were "defrauded" as to her gender, and return verdicts of less than first degree murder. This could encourage more violence against the growing community of Californians who present and live a gender role different from their birth physiology.

***

The Associated Press Story on Northern Califonia Hate Crime Trial follows:

"Deliberations Continue In Araujo Murder Trial

by Michelle Locke

The Associated Press

"Posted: June 8 2004 5:11 pm. ET

"(Hayward, California) As jurors deliberate the case of three men charged with killing a transgender teen, community advocates are anxiously watching to see if the verdict will be a milestone or stumbling block in their quest for civil rights.

"It is huge," said Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. "We are all on pins and needles waiting to see what the jury does and it will be devastating if they don't respect Gwen's humanity and see through the offensive and irrational arguments the defense attorneys have made.

Araujo, was beaten and strangled after her biological identity was revealed in a late-night confrontation in October 2002.

Three 24-year-olds – Michael Magidson, Jose Merel and Jason Cazares – face charges of first-degree murder in the killing, which was charged as a hate crime. A fourth man who was at the house, 21-year-old Jaron Nabors, pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter and agreed to testify against the others.

Araujo believed that her biology didn't match her gender identity and she had been living as a young woman for some time, meeting the defendants in late summer 2002.

Magidson and Merel had sexual encounters with Araujo – it was those episodes that fueled their suspicions of her gender – and lawyers for those men have argued the case is not murder but manslaughter, saying it was not premeditated but a crime of passion triggered by the shock of sexual fraud.

That argument appalled Araujo's family and transgender advocates.

"If the defense attorneys were making the very same arguments about Gwen only instead of it being about her gender, it was about her race or religion or ethnicity or disability it would be immediately clear to everyone that the argument is based entirely on bias and is deeply offensive," said Minter.

"If these men had sex with Gwen believing that she was, let's just say, white and then discovered that she was Latina or African-American and had become enraged and killed her, I don't think anyone would argue that in any way ought to mitigate what they had done," he said.

Prosecutor Chris Lamiero told jurors the case is certainly murder.

"They were the source of their own provocation," Lamiero said, turning to stare at the three defendants as he summed up his case for the eight-man, four-woman jury. "Their pathetic, weak sense of self-identity led to the death of a human being."

Jurors heard grim details of what happened to the 17-year-old Araujo.

According to Nabors, she was punched, choked and kicked in a confrontation in the early morning hours of Oct. 4, 2002, at Merel's house in Newark, a San Francisco suburb. He said she was hit with a can and a skillet and then tied up and strangled. As the attack began, Nabors said, Araujo begged for mercy: "No, please don't. I have a family."

"It's difficult to sit and listen to what's happened over and over again," said Gwen Smith, who maintains a Web site memorializing people believed to have been killed because they were transgender. "As a trans-person it affects me because this is so similar to something I might have gone through, so really it does hurt to hear this. At the same time, it's very good to see the case reach this point when so many other cases have never reached a courtroom."

If they are convicted of first-degree murder, the defendants face 25-years-to-life in prison. Other options are second-degree murder, which is 15-years-to-life and manslaughter, which is 11 years maximum. The case was charged as a hate crime, which would mean an extra four years.

The defendants took different approaches. Magidson's attorney apologized on his client's behalf for his role in the attack, but said the case was "classic manslaughter." Merel's attorney said the crime was manslaughter but his client was only guilty if they believed Nabors.

All three attorneys branded Nabors a liar, pointing out past inconsistencies in his statements, but Nabors insisted he was telling the truth on the stand.

Cazares sought acquittal saying he wasn't part of the attack and only helped bury the body out of loyalty to the group.

However, all fought the hate crime charge.

"This is not dealing with hate. This is dealing with a person who was deceived," said Merel's attorney, Jack Noonan.

Advocates say the case is a prime example of hate bias and they were glad to see it charged that way.

"If this is not held to be a hate crime against a transgender person, it's difficult to imagine what would be," said Minter.

"As jurors got the case Thursday, Lamiero told them they were the "conscience of the community." Transgender advocates were hoping the panel would send a message by returning murder verdicts.

"That, said Smith, would show "that Gwen's life wasn't in vain. It shows that the jury and the justice system overall values transgender lives just like anyone else's."

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