Press Room

June 21, 2004

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HRC Strongly Disappointed and Saddened at Araujo Mistrial

'We are strongly disappointed and saddened that Gwen, her family, her friends and the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community won't get fair and swift justice,' said HRC President Cheryl Jacques.

WASHINGTON - The Human Rights Campaign expressed strong disappointment as the jury declared a mistrial today in the trial of three men accused of killing Gwen Araujo, a 17-year-old transgender woman, who was viciously attacked and killed Oct. 3, 2002, in Newark, Calif., by four of her peers. According to press reports, the jury couldn't concur on the most serious charge possible: first-degree murder with hate crime enhancements.

"We are strongly disappointed and saddened that Gwen, her family, her friends and the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community won't get fair and swift justice," said HRC President Cheryl Jacques. "We've all been devastated by her brutal murder. Her memory deserves to be honored by a just resolution to this case."

Araujo was beaten severely - using fists, canned goods and a metal skillet - then strangled to death. Her attackers then wrapped her in blankets and hit her in the head with a shovel before placing her body in a pickup truck. She was driven to a remote location and buried in a shallow gave near South Lake Tahoe, where her body was found two weeks later after one of her attackers, Jaron Nabors, 20, confessed to police. Three men - Michael Magidson, 23, and Jose Merel and Jason Cazares, both 24 - were on trial for her murder and could have faced 25 years to life in prison. Nabors was also charged but pleaded guilty to manslaughter and, in exchange for testifying against the others, was promised an 11-year prison sentence.

Defense attorneys claimed that Gwen "deceived" her attackers and that learning Gwen's biological sex caused one defendant to become enraged "beyond reason." One attorney claimed that no hate crime had been committed.

"Gwen's murder was motivated by hatred to claim anything else is the only real deception," added Jacques.

The Human Rights Campaign is the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender political organization with members throughout the country. It effectively lobbies Congress, provides campaign support and educates the public to ensure that LGBT Americans can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.

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