Activists rally in response to mistrial in transgender murder case

BY admin

June 23 2004 11:00 PM ET

Dozens of transgender advocates and allies rallied Tuesday night in Harvey Milk Plaza in San Francisco's Castro district to show support for the family of slain transgendered teen Gwen Araujo. The gathering was in response to a mistrial that was declared on Tuesday in the trial of three men accused of killing Araujo. "What happened today wasn't just a mistrial. It was a miscarriage of justice," said city supervisor Tom Ammiano, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Advocates expect tens of thousands of people, including Araujo's mother, Sylvia Guerrero, to join a transgender pride march from Dolores Park to the Civic Center on Friday. It will be the first time a transgender march has been an official part of the city's gay pride festivities.

Many at the rally found comfort in the jury's apparent rejection of defense arguments that the young woman, who was biologically male, shared some responsibility for her death. Jurors agreed that Michael Magidson of Fremont and Jose Merel and Jason Cazares of Newark, all 24, were guilty of murder but deadlocked over whether it was first- or second-degree murder, said Alameda County deputy district attorney Chris Lamiero. Some argued that the outcome shows that the jury didn't buy defense claims that Araujo's slaying was not murder but manslaughter, a crime of passion fueled by the defendants' shock and anger at having been "duped" into having sex with a someone who was biologically male. "This jury wasn't willing to acquit and rejected manslaughter," said Carolyn Laub, director of the Gay-Straight Alliance Network, according to the Chronicle. "They agree that it's murder. That's important for everyone to hear. It's not justice yet, but it means the jury understands the value of one life and that the actions of these men was intentional.... We've moved on as a society. We've rejected the idea that this young woman is responsible for her own death."

Still, the mistrial, the announcement of which drew gasps within the courtroom and caused some supporters of the Araujo family to become visibly upset, left many people distraught. "I am just angry they weren't convicted of first-degree murder," said Theresa Sparks, a San Francisco police commissioner and longtime transgender rights advocate. "I'm frustrated that this has to go on for another year." Sparks added that she finds it infuriating that the defendants' attorneys believe the "trans panic" defense is valid. Prosecutors have vowed to retry the three men.

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