A California judge upheld murder charges Wednesday against three men accused of killing a transgendered teen in a hate crime. Judge Robert Kurtz ruled that there was "adequate evidence" for another judge's findings that Jose Antonio Merel, Michael William Magidson, and Jason Michael Cazares should be tried for murder in the killing of Eddie "Gwen" Araujo. Attorneys for the men had sought to overturn the earlier ruling, issued after a preliminary hearing in February. Attorneys for Merel and Cazares had asked that the murder charge ruling be overturned, and all three attorneys argued against the hate-crime enhancement. The three men have pleaded innocent.
Araujo, a 17-year-old who was born male but lived as a woman, was killed in October after her biological identity was revealed at a party at Merel's home in the San Francisco suburb of Newark. According to testimony at the preliminary hearing, Araujo was slapped, choked, beaten with a skillet, tied up, and strangled in an attack that lasted about two hours. Her body was driven to the Sierra foothills about 150 miles east and buried in a shallow grave.
Attorneys for the three men argued that they were emotionally overwhelmed by the sudden realization that the beautiful girl they knew as Lida--the girl two of them had had sex with--was a man. However, a judge rejected those arguments.
A fourth man, Jaron Chase Nabors, 20, was also charged in the murder but struck a deal to plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter in return for testifying against his friends.
After the ruling David Guerrero, Araujo's uncle, said he was pleased with the outcome. "We want the public to know that this was a hate crime," he said.