Araujo trial ends in two convictions; jury hung on third defendant

By |2018-01-16T11:54:16-05:00September 22nd, 2005|News|

HAYWARD, Calif. — The second trial for the murder of a transgendered teen, Gwen Araujo, concluded with two of the three defendants being convicted of second-degree murder. The jury deadlocked 9-3 on the third defendant’s conviction and was unable to render a verdict for Jason Cazares.
Deputy District Attorney Chris Lamiero tried all three defendants for first-degree murder with a hate crime enhancement, charges the jury rejected. The jury did agree that both Michael Magidson and Jose Merel were guilty of second-degree murder.
There was some measure of happiness and relief from the family and the transgender community that two of the three were convicted, but it was “less than a full carriage of justice,” according to Vanessa Edwards Foster, chair of the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition.
The jury did reject the “transgender panic” defense used by Michael Magidson’s lawyer, and they also refused to believe that Jose Merel only “skipped” a heavy pan off of Gwen Araujo’s head, causing no serious harm. Other testimony included a contention that the defendants feared for their lives due to Araujo allegedly threatening “retribution” from friends in a gang. One family member termed the allegation, “B.S.”
The lack of hate crime enhancements disappointed many who followed the trial. “This was surprising to many, because it was the discovery of being transgender that led to the killing that night,” said local activist Shelly Prevost, who is filming a documentary on the Araujo murder and the trial.
Others were more pointed in their reaction to the hate crimes dismissal. “How blatantly does one have to despise someone, how much overkill must be meted out in a violent act before someone is convicted of a hate crime?” asked Foster. “This again underscores the need for specific and explicit hate crimes protection language,” she added. “We keep getting ‘finessed’ out of legislative language and ‘dismissed’ from obtaining convictions for bias-driven violence. This is beyond frustrating!”
The hung jury on Jason Cazares’ charges also stunned many. “It was surreal, I still can’t believe it. I feel numb,” said Imelda Guerrero upon hearing the lack of verdict on Cazares. “I am furious but do not know what to do with it, or where to direct it. What makes me the most furious,” Guerrero added, “is knowing that three jurors were not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that Jason Cazares was guilty.”
However, even without the hate crimes and Cazares convictions there was optimism. “Nothing is going to bring Gwen back,” said Araujo’s mother Sylvia Guerrero in a press conference following the trial. “But this is at least a step toward closure.”

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