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
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,"
"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