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murder case handed to jury

murder case handed to jury


Testimony in the retrial of the Gwen Araujo murder case ended Tuesday, and jurors were expected to begin deliberations after hearing legal instructions from the judge Tuesday afternoon. They are the second panel to consider the case of the murdered transgender teen, following a deadlock that led to a mistrial last year

A prosecutor showed jurors a picture of Gwen Araujo, young and lovely at 17, as he asked jurors to return murder verdicts against the men accused of killing her. "There was a genuine human being in the case, a living, breathing, individual 17-year-old...deprived of the right to live her life the way she chose to live her life," prosecutor Chris Lamiero said in his final arguments Tuesday. Araujo was beaten, tied up, and strangled after her friends had sex with her and discovered the pretty teenager was biologically male, prosecutors allege. Three men--Michael Magidson, Jose Merel, and Jason Cazares, all 25--face first-degree murder charges in the case, which was prosecuted as a hate crime, adding a potential four years of imprisonment. Jurors got the case late Tuesday after hearing legal instructions from the judge. They are the second panel to consider the case, following a deadlock that led to a mistrial last year. Araujo was born a boy named Edward but grew up to believe her true identity was female. The defendants, who knew her as Lida, met Araujo in late summer 2002. Magidson and Merel had sexual encounters with Araujo, experiences that fueled suspicions about Araujo's gender. The issue boiled over in the early hours of October 4, 2002, in a confrontation at Merel's house in the San Francisco suburb of Newark. The three defendants have taken diverse strategies in the case. Cazares sought acquittal, saying he was outside smoking a cigarette when the killing took place. Magidson, who said he had gaps in his memory from that night, acknowledged hitting and tying up Araujo but said he did not strangle her. His attorney asked for a manslaughter verdict, saying the killing was not murder but a crime of passion provoked by deception, a defense that angered Araujo's family and many in the transgender community, who have been watching the trial closely. Merel said he vomited and wept when he discovered Araujo's biological identity, slapping her and delivering a glancing blow with a pan. But his attorney said that was the extent of Merel's involvement, saying he was not guilty of anything more than felony assault, if that. Lamiero identified Magidson as the killer and said Cazares acted as his assistant. He asked jurors to find both guilty of first-degree murder, or at least second-degree murder. First-degree murder carries a sentence of 25 years to life in prison, and a second-degree conviction brings 15 years to life; parole is rare in either case. Lamiero made no recommendation on a verdict for Merel. Witnesses have given sketchy and sometimes conflicting accounts of what happened the night Araujo died. Prosecution witness Jaron Nabors, who initially was charged with murder but was allowed to plead to manslaughter in exchange for testifying, said Araujo was choked, punched, and smashed in the head with a can and a pan. He said he did not see the killing but did see Magidson tie up Araujo and then start to pull a rope toward her neck. All three defense attorneys attacked the credibility of Nabors, accusing him of lying to cover up his own guilt. Magidson identified Nabors as the strangler. But in his final remarks, Lamiero defended Nabors, pointing out that if Nabors hadn't led police to the body buried in the Sierra foothills, the family might still be wondering what happened. Lamiero derided the notion that Araujo provoked her attackers and urged jurors to bring an end to the case. "Don't let these two murderers further stomp on this kid that they killed," he said. "Don't let them have a final victory by persuading you that somehow they're entitled to a break." (AP)

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