Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Notorious Gay Panic and Trans Panic Legal Defenses Must End, Says American Bar Association

Gwen Araujo's mother, Sylvia Guerrero, cradles her portrait. Thanks to the ABA, the so-called Gay and Trans Panic excuses for violence may one day be a thing of the past.

Gwen Araujo’s mother, Sylvia Guerrero, cradles her portrait. Thanks to the ABA, the so-called Gay and Trans Panic excuses for violence may one day be a thing of the past.

San Francisco, California – Gay Panic and Trans Panic legal defenses must go, says the House of  Delegates of the American Bar Association at their annual meeting this past week.  The delegates voted to follow the lead of California legislation calling for the cessation of excuses for violence against gays, lesbians, and transgender persons allegedly because of fear of homosexuals or the identity of transgender persons, according to eNews Park Forest.  The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the President of the National LGBT Bar Association, D’Arcy Kemnitz, sponsor of the cessation resolution at the ABA convention, called upon lawmakers throughout the United States to frame legislation banning the use of the Gay Panic and Trans Panic defenses, saying, “Legal professionals find no validity in these sham defenses mounted by those who seek to perpetuate discrimination and stereotypes as an excuse for violence.” 

The Resolution, 113A, which had previously been vetted and passed by the ABA’s Criminal Justice Section, says in part that the ABA  “urges federal, state, local and territorial governments to take legislative action to curtail the availability and effectiveness of the ‘gay panic’ and ‘trans panic’ defenses, which seek to partially or completely excuse crimes such as murder and assault on the grounds that the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity is to blame for the defendant’s violent reaction,” according to the report of Gay Star News.  The Resolution goes on to say, “Such legislative action should include requiring courts in any criminal trial or proceeding, upon the request of a party, to instruct the jury not to let bias, sympathy, prejudice, or public opinion influence its decision about the victims, witnesses, or defendants based upon sexual orientation or gender identity; and specifying that neither a non-violent sexual advance, nor the discovery of a person’s sex or gender identity, constitutes legally adequate provocation to mitigate the crime of murder to manslaughter, or to mitigate the severity of any non-capital crime.”

Californians passed their 2006 law banning 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 the moment” when they discovered Araujo’s biological identity.  The trial uncovered the truth, that both main defendants had sexual relations with Araujo for months prior to the gruesome murder, which they perpetrated by bludgeoning her into unconsciousness with a can of tomatoes and an iron frying pan.  Her attackers finished Araujo off by strangling her with a rope and beating her with a shovel.  Gwen’s murderers then drove her body four hours away from the San Francisco Bay area to bury her in a shallow grave in the Sierra Nevado mountains, where her remains lay undiscovered for several days.  All four defendants were found guilty of the killing, and were sentenced to prison after a series of three trials.  The two main defendants were sentenced to 15 years to life for second degree murder.  The consensus of legal opinion is that the Araujo trials went a far distance toward discrediting the Trans Panic defense for perpetrating violence against LGBTQ people.

In 2009, on what would have been Gwen Araujo’s 25th birthday had she lived, her mother Sylvia Guerrero called upon the American public to commemorate her transgender daughter’s life.  Speaking to the Examiner.com, Ms. Guerrero invited everyone to honor her child though acts of joy and service: “Light a candle, release a balloon, or do a good deed for someone less fortunate than yourself.  Thank you for keeping her memory alive.”  Now, Gwen Amber Rose Araujo has an even more lasting legacy with the ABA’s campaign to end the Trans Panic and Gay Panic excuses for violence in the American legal system forever.  Rest in peace, Sister.

August 15, 2013 - Posted by | American Bar Association (ABA), anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Beatings and battery, Blame the victim, Bludgeoning, California, gay panic defense, GLBTQ, Gwen Araujo, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, LGBTQ, National LGBT Bar Association, Strangulation, trans-panic defense, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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