Parole has been granted to the murderer of a transgender teen in America.
Jose Merel, 36, was convicted of the murder of Gwen Araujo in Newark in 2002 alongside three others.
On Friday a state board of Parole Hearings granted Merel parole, despite brutally beating and strangling Araujo to death.
The step is the first in a five month process to determine whether he will be allowed to go free after spending 14 years in custody.
The state Board of Parole Hearings’ legal staff now have four months to review the ruling.
Merel was one of four who were convicted for their role in the death of the 17 year old Araujo in the early hours of October 4th 2002.
Merel was sentenced alongside Michael Magidson. Both were sentenced to 15 years to life in state prison for murder.
Magidson had a parole hearing in Chowchilla on Wednesday but he stipulated that he’s still unsuitable for parole at this time, meaning he will not be eligible for parole for another three years.
The other two defendants accepted plea deals for voluntary manslaughter during their trials and have since been released.
Jason Cazares received a six year sentence and Jason Nabors was sentenced to 11 years.
Araujo was murdered by the men after they found out she was transgender and her case has since set precedent that defendants should not be able to use social bias against their victim as a defence.
At the sentencing hearing for Merel and Magidson, Araujo’s aunt, Emma Rodrigues, said Araujo “used poor judgment” in partying with the four men over a period of several months but said Araujo “shouldn’t have paid for that mistake with her life.”
In 2006, California passed the Gwen Araujo Justice for Victims Act (AB 1160). Authored by Assemblywoman Sally Lieber and sponsored by Equality California.
The bill put California firmly on record as opposing a defendant’s use of societal bias against their victim in order to decrease their own culpability for a crime.