begin in Araujo murder case
asked jurors in Hayward, Calif., on Wednesday to imagine the
last, frightening moments of life for a transgender teenager
who was murdered, allegedly by three male
companions after they learned she was biologically male.
Gwen Araujo, 17, was born a boy but grew up to
believe her true identity was female. Prosecutors say
she was beaten and strangled after the defendants
discovered that the pretty, flirtatious teen had male
genitalia. "Think about wrapping that rope around the neck
of a living, breathing human being and squeezing it
tighter and tighter and tighter," prosecutor Chris
Lamiero said in closing arguments. "What do you
think was going through the killer's mind? 'Got to keep
holding it, got to keep holding it."'
Three 25-year-old men—Michael Magidson,
Jose Merel, and Jason Cazares—face first-degree
murder charges in the case. A fourth, Jaron Nabors,
22, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in exchange for
testifying against his friends.
In a previous trial, which ended with a hung
jury last year, Lamiero had asked jurors to find all
three guilty of murder. But this time he came down
hardest on Magidson, calling him a "pathetic, despicable
excuse for a man."
Cazares's attorney, Tony Serra, was the only
defense attorney to argue Wednesday. He attacked
Nabors, the prosecution's chief witness, calling him a
"pathological liar" who was more deeply involved in the
crime than he has admitted. Closing arguments were scheduled
to continue Thursday.
The defendants, who knew Araujo as Lida, met her
in late summer 2002 and soon became friends. The
teenager started hanging out at Merel's house in the
San Francisco suburb of Newark, where they drank, smoked
marijuana, and played dominoes. Magidson and Merel had
sexual encounters with Araujo, and, according to
Merel, so did Nabors, although Nabors denies that.
Suspicions about Araujo's gender began to grow
after Magidson and Merel compared notes, leading to a
confrontation in the early morning hours of October 4,
2002. The debate was settled when Araujo's underwear was
roughly pulled aside. (AP)