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Judge speaks to jury during deliberations at Araujo murder trial

Judge speaks to jury during deliberations at Araujo murder trial

Jurors who have spent about nine days deliberating the case of three men accused of killing a transgendered teen have sent another note out to the judge. Court officials would not say what was in the note but did say that Alameda County superior court judge Harry Sheppard was planning to talk to the panel on Tuesday. Last week jurors indicated they were having problems reaching agreement, telling Sheppard they wanted more explanation regarding manslaughter and murder and needed to rehear some testimony. The panel heard the testimony and instructions and resumed deliberations. Prosecutor Chris Lamiero has asked the jury to find Michael Magidson, Jose Merel, and Jason Cazares, all 24, guilty of first-degree murder. The three are charged with killing 17-year-old transgendered female Gwen Araujo. If they decide to convict, the panel has the option of returning verdicts of first-degree murder, punishable by 25 years to life in prison; second-degree murder, 15 years to life; or manslaughter, which carries a maximum term of 11 years. The case was charged as a hate crime, which could add four years to the sentences. According to trial testimony, Araujo was beaten and strangled after her biological identity was revealed during a confrontation in the early hours of October 4, 2002, at Merel's house in Newark, a San Francisco suburb. Merel and Magidson had had sexual encounters with Araujo and had become suspicious about Araujo's gender after comparing notes, according to trial testimony. Cazares had sought acquittal, saying he wasn't involved in the killing and assisted only in burying the body. Magidson's attorney argued that the case was not murder but manslaughter, a crime of passion triggered by sexual "fraud." The case is being closely watched by transgender advocates, who say the verdicts would send a message about how much the lives of the transgendered are valued.

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