Mistrial Declared in Transgender Murder Case

Defendants argued they acted out of passion after discovering that they had been having sex with a man. Prosecuters call it a calculated hate crime.

The murder trial of three young men accused of strangling a San Francisco-area transgender teenager ended in a mistrial on Tuesday after the judge described the jury as “hopelessly deadlocked.”
Prosecutors said they planned to retry the case, which was prosecuted as a hate crime and had been closely followed by gay and transgender activists across the nation.

The Alameda County Superior Court jury had deliberated for 10 days but split on whether the three men were guilty of the Oct. 2002 strangulation death of the 17-year-old, who was born Edward Araujo Jr. but lived as a woman named Gwen or Lida.

Two of the defendants had been having sex with Araujo and plotted to murder the teen after a party at the home of one of the defendants, during which the three men learned that Araujo was biologically male, prosecutors say.

Jurors were deadlocked seven-to-five in favor of convicting one of the men of murder, and 10-to-two in acquitting the other two men of murder. The jury had not yet considered lesser charges of manslaughter or second-degree murder.

The three defendants — Jason Cazares, Michael Magdison and Jose Merel, all 24 — had faced 25 years to life in prison if convicted.

Magdison’s lawyer had argued that he acted out of passion after discovering that he had been having sex with a man, while prosecutors argued that Araujo was beaten, bound and strangled to death in an act of calculated murder by all three defendants.

A retrial is planned, said a representative of Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Chris Lamiero.

Author: Reuters

News Service: Reuters

URL: http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=domesticNews&storyID=5486526