Judge excuses distraught witness from Araujo murder trial
April 21 2004 12:00 AM ET
A judge temporarily excused a key witness in the trial of three men accused of killing transgendered teen Gwen Araujo after the witness tearfully declared she was not up to testifying.
Nicole Brown had been expected to talk Monday about the chaotic scene that ensued the night she followed Araujo into a bathroom and confirmed the growing suspicions of many that the beautiful girl they knew as "Lida" was biologically male. But with a mumbled "I can't do it today," Brown declined to answer questions about details surrounding the killing of Eddie "Gwen" Araujo.
Judge Harry Sheppard excused her until Tuesday. Sheppard told jurors that Brown had "experienced some recent distress that's totally unrelated to this case in all respects." Outside the Alameda County, Calif., courthouse, attorneys would say only that Brown needed time to take care of a personal problem.
On trial are Michael Magidson, 23, and Jose Merel and Jason Cazares, both 24. A fourth man, Jaron Nabors, initially was charged with murder but pleaded guilty to manslaughter and has been promised an 11-year sentence in exchange for testifying against his friends.
Prosecutors say Araujo was choked, punched, kicked, tied up, and strangled by the people she thought were her friends. The case has focused attention on the issue of violence against transgendered people.