California appeals court upholds sentences for men who killed trans teenager
California’s First District Court of Appeal unanimously affirmed the second-degree murder convictions of two men who killed a 17-year-old trans woman.
Gwen Araujo was strangled and beaten by four men in 2002 in Newark after they discovered her trans status.
Michael Magidson and Jose Merel were found guilty of second-degree murder, while Jaron Nabors and Jason Cazares, took plea bargains to voluntary manslaughter.
During the case, the defence argued that Araujo had provoked the men by having oral and anal sex with them without revealing her biological gender, claiming the charges should be reduced to manslaughter as the defendents acted “in the heat of the moment”.
The appeal court ruled 3-0 last week that the Alameda County trial judge had defined the crimes properly to the jury and that the panel had substantial evidence for second-degree murder convictions.
Prosecutor and Deputy District Attorney Chris Lamiero told the San Francisco Chronicle that the case showed that a crime cannot be not reduced from murder to manslaughter “simply because the victim was transgender.”
Masen Davis, executive director of the Transgender Law Center, said: “It is offensive and harmful to suggest that the murder of a young woman should be reduced to manslaughter merely because the victim happened to be transgender.
“We are thankful that the Court of Appeal saw through this blatant prejudice, and upheld the convictions of Gwen’s killers.”
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 puts 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.