Defense begins in Araujo murder trial

BY admin

May 06 2004 12:00 AM ET

Attorneys for three men charged with killing a transgendered teenager began their defense Tuesday, attempting to chip away at the credibility of the prosecution's key witness. Michael Magidson, 23; Jose Merel, 24; and Jason Cazares, 24, are charged with killing Gwen Araujo in October 2002 after discovering that the 17-year-old was biologically male.

Most of the details about Araujo's killing have come from a fourth man, Jaron Nabors, who says he was present for much of the assault. Nabors had faced murder charges until he decided to plead guilty to manslaughter and testify against the others. Defense attorneys say Nabors is lying to save himself.

Paul Merel Jr., the older brother of Jose Merel, testified that he thought Cazares was the only member of the group who didn't have sex with Araujo, disputing Nabors's earlier testimony that he did have a sexual encounter with Araujo. In cross-examination, prosecutor Chris Lamiero questioned Paul Merel's motives. "You want to see your brother walk out of this courtroom at the end of this trial. You want to see him go home an innocent man," Lamiero said.

"I want to see all of them go home--every last one of them," Paul Merel said.

Earlier on Tuesday, the prosecution rested its case after two weeks of sometimes gruesome testimony, including Nabors's bleakly detailed account of Araujo's last hours.

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