Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Judge Puts Off Murder Trial of Gay Puerto Rican Teen’s Confessed Killer

San Juan, Puerto Rico – In a controversial move, a Puerto Rican judge has postponed the murder trial of Juan José Martínez Matos (pictured at left) who confessed to the grisly decapitation, dismemberment, and immolation of the body of 19-year-old Jorge Steven López Mercado in November 2009.  In the intervening months since his arrest, Martínez Matos has claimed gay panic and childhood sexual abuse as rationalizations for the murder he says he committed when he “discovered” that the gay teen was homosexual during a tryst.  A psychiatric examination has deemed Martínez Matos competent to stand trial for the crime. EDGE reports that Judge Myriam Camila Justino announced on March 8th Juan José Martínez Matos’ trial would begin in Caguas on April 14th, not on March 30th as previously announced.  No reason was given in the press for the postponement.  López Mercado’s horrific murder, arguably the worst anti-LGBT hate crime in Puerto Rico’s history, has served as a magnet both for homophobic/heterosexist prejudice and for social justice advocacy on behalf of the LGBT population on the island.  Law enforcement officers intimated to the press that the gay teen somehow got what he had coming to him because of his sexual orientation, comments that ignited a firestorm of protest both in Puerto Rico and on the U.S. mainland.  Attempts to besmirch the slain teenager’s character, thereby lessening the sympathy of the public for his killing, were made early on in the reportage surrounding the case.  Most recently, details of López Mercado’s alleged drug use and sex work have been brandished in the press.  Social action advocates for human rights such as Pedro Julio Serrano have repeatedly beaten back such character attacking tactics by reminding the public that the slain teenager is not on trial here–his alleged murderer is.  Politicians in the United States from the U.S. Congress and from New York city and state governments have traveled to Puerto Rico in recent months to focus attention on the plight of LGBT people in the U.S. Territory, and to express solidarity with the victim’s family.  Large protests have been staged in San Juan and in cities around that nation such as New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Atlanta, Dallas, Boston, and Washington, D.C.  The passage of the James Byrd, Jr. and Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act in October has set the stage for violence against LGBT people in Puerto Rico to be investigated in more effective ways than ever before.  Though a Puerto Rican law made violence against LGBT people there illegal, no one has ever been prosecuted under the provisions of the law until this case.  It remains to be seen if the power of cultural phobias and traditional religious antipathy to LGBT people will significantly impact the outcome of this trial.  But first the defendant must have his day in court, barring his petition to avoid a jury trial altogether.

March 9, 2010 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Blame the victim, Character assassination, Decapitation and dismemberment, gay men, gay panic defense, gay teens, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, immolation, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Legislation, Matthew Shepard Act, New York, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Popular Culture, Protests and Demonstrations, Puerto Rico, religious intolerance, Social Justice Advocacy, stabbings, U.S. House of Representatives | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Judge Puts Off Murder Trial of Gay Puerto Rican Teen’s Confessed Killer

BB Gun Attackers Face Hate Crimes Charges in San Francisco

San Francisco, CA – Three cousins from Hayward are being charged with a hate crime for shooting a gay man in the face with a BB gun because they assumed he was a homosexual.  The Oakland Tribune reports that Mohammad Habibzada, 24, Shafiq Hashemi, 21, and Sayed Bassam, 21, saw a man standing outside a gay bar around 10 p.m. on February 26th in the Mission District of San Francisco smoking a cigarette.  They opened fire with a air rifle, hitting him in the face.  BB shot struck the victim in the cheek.  He was not seriously hurt, but as Assistant District Attorney Brian Buckelew noted to the Tribune, “Here we have a guy, shot in face with BB gun, who could have easily been shot in the eye.”  The victim got a clear look at a silver Volvo and reported the attack to police, who arrested the suspects within 15 minutes of the crime thanks to the description of the vehicle.  The alleged attackers had videoed the assault, and their handiwork is in the hands of police as evidence.  According to Buckelew, the video also includes evidence of similar crimes that are now under investigation.  Under police interrogation, the three suspects, all cousins with Hayward addresses, admitted that they chose their target because they thought he was gay.  The trio are facing three felony counts including assault with a deadly weapon with a hate crime enhancement, discharge of a firearm with gross negligence, and attempted mayhem.  They are also charged with a misdemeanor, violating the civil rights of their victim.  As the Tribune reports, all three suspects are now out of custody, each having posted a $50,000 bond. They are scheduled to be arraigned Friday, when the district attorney will request bail be raised to $100,000 because of the severity of the charges against them.  Other victims are in the video seized by police, representing several other crimes the trio may have committed.  The Assistant District Attorney said that there could be other charges against the three cousins if victims seen on the video come forward.

March 9, 2010 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, California, gay men, gun violence, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order | , , , , , , | Comments Off on BB Gun Attackers Face Hate Crimes Charges in San Francisco


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