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by Susan Forrest
Wednesday, Jun. 23, 2004 at 9:46 PM
the jury that heard the case against the murderers of Gwen Araujo, the young transgender women who was killed last year in Newark, California, were unable to agree on a verdict and the judge was forced to declare a mistrial.
June 22, 2004
This will now be the main topic at tomorrow nights Town Hall Forum:
Facing Hate: Discrimination & Hate Against the Transgender Community"
A Community Town Hall Forum
sponsored by the WH Transgender Task Force
Wednesday, June 23, 2004
7 - 9 PM
West Hollywood Park Auditorium
647 N. San Vicente Blvd.
A march and demonstration will be following this Town Hall Forum.
Justice for Gwen Delayed, Not Denied
Coalition of Eight Local, State, and National LGBT Groups
Frustrated by Mistrial, But Optimistic
San Francisco, CA – Twenty months after the brutal slaying of Gwen Araujo, a transgender teenager from Newark, the jury deadlocked on whether her attackers were guilty of first or second degree murder. According to Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, none of the jurors were willing to settle for the lesser offense of manslaughter – despite efforts by defense attorneys in the case to argue that Gwen’s killers were somehow justified because she did not disclose her transgender identity to them. The prosecutor already has stated that he will re-try the three defendants, Michael Magidson, Jose Merel, and Jason Cazares, for murder.
“Because the defense team tried to make this a trial about Gwen’s gender identity instead of the defendants’ conduct, a lot of us were anxious about this verdict,” said Christopher Daley, Co-Director of the Transgender Law Center. “Even though I am disappointed by the delay in achieving justice for Gwen, I am heartened that these jurors refused to let these young men escape responsibility for their horrific choices.”
Representatives from Community United Against Violence, Equality California, Gay-Straight Alliance Network, The Horizons Foundation, National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, San Francisco LGBT Community Center, and the Transgender Law Center thank the Alameda County District Attorneys office for their diligent efforts in prosecuting Gwen’s murderers and their determination not to rest until justice is done.
“We are relieved that the prosecutor is committed to retrying these defendants,” said Tina D’Elia, Hate Violence Prevention Program Director at Community United Against Violence. “This is the first prosecution of a hate crime against a transgender person under California’s hate crime statute,” D’Elia added. “This case confirms the need for such a law. I am sure that the jury’s refusal to buy into the so-called “transgender panic” defense will offer some comfort to Gwen’s family because the jury recognized Gwen’s humanity and stayed focused on the facts.”
This case also highlights the importance of protecting transgender youth. “One of the most profound messages that must be learned from Gwen’s murder is that hate crimes are preventable and education is the key to prevention,” said Carolyn Laub, Executive Director of the Gay Straight Alliance Network. “Students, parents, teachers, administrators, and advocates need to continue to push California school districts to implement effective transgender inclusive anti-bias curriculum at all age levels.”
People interested in supporting efforts to eliminate anti-transgender bias from Bay Area public schools are encouraged to make financial contribution to the Gwen Araujo Memorial Fund by visiting www.horizonsfoundation.org or calling Julie Dorf at (415) 398-2333 ext. 103.
This is a statement from NCTE Executive Mara Keisling regarding the mistrial of the Araujo case. An Alameda County Superior Court judge declared the mistrial after the jury deliberated for 10 days. Judge Harry Sheppard is quoted as saying "it appears to the court that this jury is hopelessly deadlocked''. The defense is using the idea of “trans panic” as an excuse for this murder.
For Immediate Release
Tuesday, June 22, 2004
Contact: Mara Keisling
Phone: (202) 639-6332
NCTE Reacts to Jury in the Trial of Accused Murderers of Transgender Woman Gwen Araujo.
“Trans Panic” Defense is unconscionable
The following statement is attributable to Mara Keisling, Executive Director of The National Center for Transgender Equality:
The fact that the jury was hung seems to show that it was taking seriously the “trans panic” or “gay panic” defense used by the confessed murderers of Gwen Araujo. This defense is shameful and harmful to all transgender, as well as gay people. It devalues our lives and makes us all less safe.
The gay panic defense says that it’s okay to murder someone if you feel sufficient hatred, bigotry or fear toward them to want to murder them. It is nothing but a loophole that allows murder in cases of severe bigotry and hate.
We immediately call on the California legislature to pass a law to disallow the use of a trans panic or gay panic defense as an excuse for murder.
Additionally, Gwen’s murder shows the urgent need for public school curricula aimed at teaching children, adolescents and teenagers tolerance and understanding for people different than themselves.
Our thoughts are with Gwen’s family.
The National Center for Equality (NCTE) is a social justice organization dedicated to advancing the equality of transgender people through advocacy, collaboration and empowerment.
National Center for Transgender Equality
1325 Massachusetts Ave, NW Suite 600
Washington, DC 20005
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