Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Murdered Trans-teen Gwen Araujo Vindicated by CA Appeal Court Ruling

gwen araujo B&WNewark, CA, May 13, 2009 – A California state court of appeal upheld the second degree murder convictions of two young East Bay men for their part in the strangling, beating, and murder of 17 year old male-to-female transgender Latina Gwen Amber Rose Araujo in 2002.  Jose Merel and Michael Magidson had appealed their convictions on the grounds that the Alameda County trial judge had not defined the crimes properly to the jury at the time of the original trial in 2005, and that there had not been sufficient evidence for second degree murder convictions.  The appeal court ruled 3-0 against the petition of the defendants, who will continue to serve out their 15-year sentences for the grisly murder. 

 The 2002 Araujo case drew national attention to the plight of transgender people in the United States, especially transgender people of color.  Araujo, born biologically male and originally known as Eddie, had transitioned to being female by the time of the assault.  After she died, her mother legally changed her name to Gwen as a sign of love and respect.  Her killers, who knew her as “Lida” had known her for months, and Gwen believed they were fast friends.  Both Merel and Magidson had sex with Araujo orally and anally.  According to their defense, she had not revealed her biological identity to them.  When her biological maleness was discovered, the defense went on to contend, the men attacked Araujo “in the heat of the moment,” and therefore deserved convictions for a lesser charge of manslaughter instead of murder.  The prosecution successfully argued against this version of the “trans-panic defense,” and secured the  murder convictions against them.  Two other defendants in the case, Jaron Nabors and Jason Cazares pled guilty to manslaughter and were sentenced to 11 and 6 years respectively.  They have not sought to challenge their convictions.

The Araujo case sharpened the national debate on the trans-panic defense.  The outcome of the 2002 trial went a long way toward refuting the once widely held notion that trans people somehow brought on attacks against themselves.  As Masen Davis, executive director of the Transgender Law Center noted to reporters,the ruling of the court of appeal definitively rejected the claim that the murder of a young woman like Gwen should be reduced to a lesser charge just because she was transgender.  “We are thankful that the Court of Appeal saw through this blatant prejudice, and upheld the convictions of Gwen’s killers,” she said.

May 19, 2009 - Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Media Issues, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Racism, Strangulation, trans-panic defense, transphobia | , , , , , , ,


  1. […] legal counsel, Gloria Allred, who represented the mother of slain transgender woman Gwen Araujo, is not pressing the court dates, given the level of trauma her client sustained from the multiple […]

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    Comment by Stephanie | January 17, 2010

  4. […] the use of Gay and Trans Panic defenses in response to the infamous 2002 slaying of transwoman Gwen Araujo of Newark, California by four male assailants who claimed that they panicked in “the heat of […]

    Pingback by Notorious Gay Panic and Trans Panic Legal Defenses Must End, Says American Bar Association « Unfinished Lives | August 15, 2013

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