On May 13, California’s First District Court of Appeal unanimously affirmed the second-degree murder convictions of Michael Magidson and Jose Merel for the murder of Gwen Araujo in 2002. Araujo, a 17-year old from Newark, California was murdered after Magidson and Merel discovered that she was a transgender woman.
The original trial of Magidson and Merel was the first in which a hate crimes charge was used to prosecute the murder of a transgender person. To ensure that future convictions would not be impacted by juror bias and so-called “panic strategies”, California passed the Gwen Araujo Justice for Victims Act (AB 1160) in 2006.
Applauding the decision, National Center for Lesbian Rights’ legal director, Shannon Minter, said he was gratified that the court “did the right thing.”
“Many transgender people, especially transgender women of color, have lost their lives due to hatred and bias,” Minter said. “While we are relieved that justice has prevailed in this case, it will not bring Gwen Araujo back to those who loved her. More is needed to prevent this kind of tragedy from taking place.” – by Nancy Ford