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Defense says key
witness in Araujo case is a liar

Defense says key
witness in Araujo case is a liar

A defense attorney in the trial of three men accused of killing a transgender teenager hammered at the credibility of the prosecution's key witness, saying he's lying to save himself. Witness Jaron Nabors initially also faced murder charges in the October 2002 death of 17-year-old Gwen Araujo. He was allowed to plead to manslaughter in exchange for his testimony against the others--Michael Magidson, Jose Merel, and Jason Cazares, all 25. Prosecutors claim Araujo, who was born a boy named Edward but grew up to believe her true identity was as a woman, was murdered in a calculated revenge attack when the men discovered that the flirty girl two of them had had sex with was biologically male. A previous trial last year ended in a hung jury. Magidson's attorney, Michael Thorman, had argued that the case was not murder but manslaughter, a crime of passion provoked by sexual fraud--a defense that angered Araujo's family. In cross-examination Thursday, attorney Tony Serra, who represents Cazares, tried to shake jurors' faith in Nabors. Serra brought up instances in which Nabors previously lied about the case and charged that Nabors played a much bigger role in the attack than he has admitted. Serra questioned why Nabors would have pleaded guilty to manslaughter based on his testimony that his involvement essentially was limited to stopping Araujo from leaving the house and helping dispose of the body. "Why did you plead guilty?" Serra asked. "I was afraid of being convicted of murder," Nabors replied. "Isn't that because you, Jaron Nabors, picked up a weight, a heavy weight, a heavy steel weight, and smashed her in the head with it and killed her by doing that," asked Serra, his voice rising. "Isn't that what you're hiding?" "No, sir," Nabors said. Prosecutors say Araujo was beaten and strangled in a late-night confrontation at Merel's house in Newark, a San Francisco suburb. The showdown was prompted after Merel and Magidson, who both had had sexual encounters with Araujo, grew suspicious after comparing notes, Nabors said. According to Nabors, Araujo was beaten by Merel and Magidson and then tied up. He said he didn't see the strangulation but saw Magidson pull a loose end of rope toward Araujo's head and later heard him talking about twisting the rope. Cazares, meanwhile, went with Nabors to get shovels, saying that Araujo was going to be killed, Nabors said. All three defense attorneys claim Nabors is lying. Serra said his client did not plan the attack or take part in it but only helped bury the body after Araujo was dead because he felt obliged to help the others. Merel's attorney, Bill DuBois, said his client cared for Araujo and didn't seriously hurt her. Thorman, Magidson's attorney, conceded his client took part in the attack but noted that he is guilty only of manslaughter. (AP)

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