Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Ricky Martin Criticizes Move to Drop Gay Protections from Puerto Rico Law

Ricky Martin speaks out against change in Puerto Rican penal code (AP photo).

Ricky Martin, Latino Superstar, blasted politicians in his home commonwealth of Puerto Rico for seeking to remove gay people from legal protection from bias-motivated hate crimes, according to Fox News Latino. Martin posted a strong statement on his website blog denouncing the move.  In part, he said:

“I am very saddened by the turn the discussion on criminal law has taken in Puerto Rico that proposes to eliminate the aggravating in cases where crimes are committed by prejudice against the victim.”  Martin went on to say, “They ought to do their homework and review the Universal Declaration of Human Rights a bit…which says that everyone – all citizens – are equal before the law and have, without distinction, the right to equal protection under the law.”

Martin’s opposition to the change in Puerto Rico’s hate crimes law comes at a time when the numbers of anti-gay and transgender hate crimes are reaching epidemic proportions.  His voice will help amplify the protests of local LGBT and Dominican activists who are fighting the passage of the amendment in the legislature. In March 2010, Martin came out openly as a gay man, ending years of speculation by the public.  On his website, he said, “I am proud to say that I am a fortunate homosexual man. I am very blessed to be who I am.”  After years of  declining to comment on his sexual orientation, Martin said, “These years in silence and reflection made me stronger and reminded me that acceptance has to come from within, and that this kind of truth gives me the power to conquer emotions I didn’t even know existed.”   Now the father of two young sons , Matteo and Valentino, who were born of a surrogate mother in 2008, Martin took citizenship in Spain in 2011, where he intends to marry his lover.  Though he could be married in certain states in the U.S., he has said he wishes to marry in Spain to acknowledge the work of LGBT rights advocates and Prime Minister Zapatero there.

One of the motivators Martin says moved him to come out publicly as a gay man was the gruesome murder of Jorge Steven López Mercado in 2009.  The gay teen was abducted, dismembered, beheaded, and his remains were left burning along a rural road in central Puerto Rico.  The savagery of the killing awoke the consciences of many on the Island besides Martin, though the numbers of violent attacks against LGBT Puerto Ricans has continued to rise.  López Mercado’s murderer has been convicted, and is serving a 99-year sentence.

December 8, 2011 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Bisexual persons, Decapitation and dismemberment, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Puerto Rico, Social Justice Advocacy, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Ricky Martin Criticizes Move to Drop Gay Protections from Puerto Rico Law

Gay Hate Crimes in Puerto Rico? Not Any More?

Police view the corpse of murdered gay Puerto Rican, Ezequiel Crespo Hernández, in April 2011 (EDGE photo).

San Juan, Puerto Rico – Puerto Rico’s lawmakers are poised to remove LGBT people from hate crimes protection status with the stroke of a pen.  Although at least 18 LGBT Puerto Ricans have been murdered in hate crimes since 2009, Edge Boston reports that the territory’s Senate passed a bill last month removing LGBT people from protected categories under the hate crimes law that has been on the books since 2004. The exclusion effort now goes on to the House of Representatives for a vote this week in a special legislative session called by Gov. Luis Fortuño.

Outraged by the increasing number of anti-gay hate crimes, local LGBT activists demanded investigations in June.  The Advocate reports that the grisly murder and dismemberment of Jorge Steven López Mercado, a gay teen, ignited the protests that officials were not investigating anti-gay violence under the territory’s hate crimes law. Recently, the strangulation of gay Ezequiel Crespo Hernández, 22, on a public beach in Camuy, and a gas station assault on transgender woman Francheska González  so brutal that it punctured her breast implant, intensified the call for justice to be done. Three more LGBT Puerto Ricans, Alejandro Torres Torres, Karlota Gómez Sánchez and Ramón “Moncho” Salgado, were also found dead within a three-day period in June. “It seems they have declared open hunting season against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and transsexual people,”  Pedro Julio Serrano, founder of the gay rights group Puerto Rico for Everyone, said to the Associated Press. In response to rising criticism, Puerto Rico’s Attorney General directed an investigation into the application of the hate crimes law. Opponents of the LGBT community responded by quietly acting to remove queer folk from the penal code’s protection.

The penal code revision is drawing criticism from legislators and activists alike. The Advocate says Representative Héctor Ferrer and Sen. Eduardo Bhatia are among the most outspoken critics of the change. Ferrer, speaking at a press conference on Sunday, said,  “To eliminate these groups as protected categories is to invite the commission of hate crimes in Puerto Rico. It is a setback in the country’s public policy.” Bhatia added his voice, saying, “In an advanced society, this is dangerous for society.”  After the proposed amendment removing LGBTs from hate crimes protection, the only categories of persons who would be protected by the law in Puerto Rico would be political affiliation, age, and disability.

Activist Serrano told EDGE, “Basically they took out the communities hardest hit by hate crimes in Puerto Rico out of the hate crimes statute,” Serrano told EDGE, referring the LGBT community and Dominicans who come to the island for work. “It’s an outrage and now we’re calling upon the House to restore this to where it should be.”  Protests and marches against the provision are planned this week throughout island. Serrano, referring to adversaries of the LGBT community, added, “They’re trying to do it under the radar and that’s how it went for a while. Under our watch, we’re not going to let this happen.”

December 5, 2011 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Decapitation and dismemberment, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Legislation, LGBTQ, Politics, Protests and Demonstrations, Puerto Rico, Social Justice Advocacy, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gay Hate Crimes in Puerto Rico? Not Any More?

Anti-Gay Murder Spikes Up 23% in 2010, Report Says

Mother of murdered Puerto Rican Transwoman, Ashley Santiago Ocasio, in April 2010 (Israel Gonzales photo for Primera Hora)

New York, New York – Alarming 2010 statistics from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) released today show a 23% increase in the number of confirmed murders of LGBTQ and HIV-Positive people in the United States.  The report documents the second highest increase in anti-gay murder in the organization’s history. Transgender people and queer people of color are the most targeted populations in America for “severe hate violence,”according to the media summary.  In addition to these staggering statistics for hate crimes murders, there has been a documented increase of hate violence against LGBTQ communities of 13% over 2009.  The NCAVP is the most comprehensive aggregator of anti-gay hate crimes statistics in the nation, serving as an important counterpoint to the Federal Bureau of Investigation stats issued annually as well.

In a national audio press conference today, the NCAVP released its report Hate Violence Against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and HIV-Affected Communities in the United States in 2010. NCAVP collected data concerning hate violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) and HIV-affected people, from 17 anti-violence programs in 15 states across the country including: Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Texas, Vermont and Wisconsin. While the report shows the crisis of violence against sexual minority communities in the United States, the numbers of non-reporting states indicates that the actual number of cases of hate crimes against LGBTQ people is much, much higher than these statistics alone.

The NCAVP report quoted anti-violence experts from around the nation to highlight the severity of the losses for the last year: “This increase in murders signals a pattern of severe, ongoing violence against LGBTQ and HIV-affected communities,” said Jake Finney from L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center in Los Angeles, California. “Transgender individuals and people of color face multiple forms of discrimination on the basis of race, gender identity and other factors, which can make them more vulnerable to severe violence,” said Maria Carolina Morales from Community United Against Violence in San Francisco, California. “Additionally, the general public, law enforcement, and the media may be less inclined to address, prevent and respond to violence against these communities, making this violence seem invisible and ignored.” 

Among the findings of the report released today:

  • 27 murders of LGBTQ people were documented for 2010, a 23% increase over the 22 reported in 2009
  • 70% of these 27 murders were of transgender and queer people of color, showing an outsized incidence of violence associated with race, gender identity and expression, and poverty
  • 44% of the total of survivors and victims were transpeople and people of color
  • Transgender and queer people of color were much less apt to receive adequate medical attention and sufficient police protection
  • Transgender women made up 44% of the victims of murder in 2010, yet they represent on 11% of survivors
  • Transgender women, especially transwomen of color, were far likelier to have received injuries from violent attacks this past year, and far less likely to have received medical attention for their injuries
EDGE Boston reports that where controversies over same-sex marriage or state struggles over marriage amendments occur, the incidence of hate violence against sexual minorities rise exponentially. Colorado Anti-Violence Program’s spokesperson, Sandhya Luther told EDGE’s Michael K. Lavers, “We are aware the polarization of discussions will lead to more anti-LGBTQH violence.” Of particular concern are the 18 murders of LGBTQ Puerto Ricans recorded over the last year and a half. These latinate killings have been particularly brutal, and local activists and human rights advocates have called upon the U.S. Justice Department to intervene in the Territory to offset the apparent lack of local law enforcement to investigate these murders fairly.

July 12, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, bi-phobia, Bisexual persons, FBI, gay bashing, gay men, gay teens, gender identity/expression, Gender Variant Youth, GLBTQ, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, Latinos, Law and Order, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), New York, Puerto Rico, Racism, Social Justice Advocacy, transgender persons, transphobia, U.S. Justice Department | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Transwoman’s Murderer Gets 111-Year Sentence in Puerto Rico

Ashley Santiago, hate murder victim; Emmauel Ayala, insert (Primera Hora photo)

Bayamón, Puerto Rico – A man who confessed stabbing a 31-year-old transgender woman in her Corozal home has received a 111-year sentence for the crime. Emmanuel Adorno Ayala, 22 at the time of the murder, was sentenced by Judge Jesús Peluyera, according to Primera Hora.  Ayala admitted to authorities that he stabbed and slashed Ms. Santiago at least fourteen times. EDGE Boston reports that Ms. Santiago’s mother, Carmen Ocasio, weeping as she responded to the judge’s strong sentence, said, “This pain will remain with me the rest of my life.”  Ms. Santiago, a popular hairstylist in Corozal, was found naked in her apartment lying in a pool of blood. Officials arrested Ayala, and after his confession, sought a psychiatric evaluation to determine whether he was competent to stand trial. In November the court adjudged Ayala fit to stand trial for the heinous murder. Social justice advocates in Puerto Rico note that the severity of the sentence and the relative swiftness of the judge’s action are heartening developments in the U.S. Territory, which has been riven by numerous, grisly anti-LGBTQ murders in recent years.

February 7, 2011 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Hate Crimes, home-invasion, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Puerto Rico, Social Justice Advocacy, stabbings, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Transwoman’s Murderer Gets 111-Year Sentence in Puerto Rico

Alleged Murderer of Transgender Woman to Stand Trial in Puerto Rico

Emmanuel Ayala (PrimeraHora.com photo)

Bayamón, Puerto Rico – A psychologist has informed the court in Bayamón that the alleged murderer of a popular transgender hair stylist is sane, and fit to stand trial for her murder.  EDGE reports that Emmanuel Adorno Ayala, 22, allegedly stabbed Ashley Santiago 14 times inside her Corozal, Puerto Rico home on April 19.  Santiago, 31, something of a local celebrity, was found dead, stripped naked in a large pool of blood in the kitchen of her home by police officers.  At the time of her murder, Pedro Julio Serrano, leading LGBTQ rights activist in Puerto Rico, urged authorities to investigate the homicide as a hate crime.  Transphobia has not been publicly established as a motive for the crime, but Serrano and other activists are monitoring developments closely.  Gender presentation and gender identity have become major media issues in Puerto Rico since the brutal murder of Jorge Steven López Mercado in November 2009 outside Cayey.  Mercado, a gay teen who presented femininely, was tortured, decapitated, and partially immolated by Juan A. Martínez Matos.  Matos was convicted of López Mercado’s grisly murder in May after confessing the murder, and was sentenced to 99 years in prison.  Much of the controversy swirling around anti-LGBTQ hate crimes in the United States territory is due to the official refusal to investigate and prosecute crimes under existing hate crimes laws.  Puerto Rico has hate crime law includes both sexual orientation and gender identity. Though the statutes took effect in 2002, prosecutors are reluctant to invoke it in obvious cases such as López Mercado’s and Santiago’s.

November 22, 2010 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Decapitation and dismemberment, gay teens, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, immolation, Latino and Latina Americans, Latinos, Law and Order, Legislation, Media Issues, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Puerto Rico, Slashing attacks, Social Justice Advocacy, stabbings, Torture and Mutilation, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Alleged Murderer of Transgender Woman to Stand Trial in Puerto Rico

Another Horrific Trans Murder in Puerto Rico: Anti-Trans Violence Epidemic Continues

Corpse of slain transwoman transported to coroner (Primera Hora photo/ David Villafañe)

Caguas, Puerto Rico – In less than two months, police in Puerto Rico are investigating the savage murder of another transgender woman.  Angie González Oquendo, 38, was found strangled to death with an electrical cord in her home in Caguas.  Police have not yet designated the murder as a hate crime, but LGBT activists familiar with the outbreak of anti-LGBT violence in Puerto Rico are calling for a full hate crime investigation.  EDGE Boston reports that the last time Ms. González Oquendo was seen alive was May 20.  Investigators believe she was murdered later that same day. El Nuevo Día reports that the body of the slain transgender woman was found when neighbors reported a repugnant odor coming from her apartment. Though Ms. González Oquendo’s father believes that her boyfriend murdered his daughter, Pedro Julio Serrano of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force said to reporters that a hate crime investigation must be launched nonetheless.  Speaking to EDGE, Serrano said, “At the very least, I suspect that a crime could have been committed by prejudice against the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The authorities have an obligation under the law to investigate this hate angle.” Angie González Oquendo is the most recent in a grim series of anti-LGBT hate murders in the United States Territory.  Five weeks ago, police discovered the body of Ashley Santiago Ocasio who had been stabbed to death in her home in Corozal.  In November of last year, Jorge Steven López Mercado’s decapitated, dismembered and partially immolated body was found on a lonely rode outside Caguas.  His murderer, Juan Martínez Matos, was sentenced to 99 years in prison after pleading guilty to the Silence-of-the-Lambs-style killing.  The transgender community in Puerto Rico is understandably on edge as this latest news of murder sweeps through the population.  Transgender people are among the most vulnerable citizens of the island paradise, and transphobic murder is emerging as a substantial indicator that such violence is reaching epidemic proportions. EDGE reports that Guillermo Chacon, president of the Latino Commission on AIDS, issued a statement just as the story of Ms. González Oquendo’s brutal murder broke in the press.  In part, Mr. Chacon said, “I urge the Latino community to be united as one voice and with our personal actions reject any type of homophobia, transphobia and discrimination. We are one family; we must pursue the well-being of all our members. We must address homophobia and transphobia by putting a stop to the jokes, slurs, discrimination and hatred faced by our LGBT brothers and sisters, not just in Puerto Rico but across the entire country. Hatred and violence is never the answer.”

May 25, 2010 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Decapitation and dismemberment, gay men, gay teens, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, immolation, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Puerto Rico, Social Justice Advocacy, stabbings, Strangulation, transgender persons, transphobia, Uncategorized, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Another Horrific Trans Murder in Puerto Rico: Anti-Trans Violence Epidemic Continues

Puerto Rican Teen Killer Pleads Guilty, Gets 99 Years for Hate Murder

Jorge Steven López Mercado

Caguas, Puerto Rico – In a stunning development, Juan José Martínez Matos, sole suspect in the “Silence of the Lambs style” butchery of gay teenager, Jorge Steven López Mercado, pled guilty to murder during a hearing today. Michael Lavers, news editor of EDGE Boston broke the story in the U.S. blogosphere.  Though Martínez Matos was to stand trial for the grisly November 2009 murder on May 17, he entered the guilty plea to bring judicial proceedings to an end.  Lavers reports, “Martínez told the court he understood the consequences of his actions, and Judge Miriam Camila Jusino immediately sentenced him to 99 years in prison.” Investigators believe that Martínez Matos stabbed the gender-non-conforming López Mercado to death before decapitating and dismembering the body which he then attempted to immolate on a lonely roadside near the mountain village of Cayey on November 12, 2009.  News of the horrible murder swept the island, and shocked thousands on the U.S. mainland.  Scores of vigils and demonstrations called upon Puerto Rican authorities to invoke a hate crimes statute never used to protect LGBT people, though it was written for that purpose in 2002.  The blatant homophobia of the crime was confirmed by Martínez Matos when he confessed today that he hated gay people, but had offered to exchange cocaine for sex with the gay youth. According to the Associated Press, Attorney Celimar Gracia, representing Martínez Matos, told Primera Hora newspaper that prosecutors dropped several weapons-violation charges in exchange for the plea.  In the best interests of his client, he said, this was the best way to bring this case to a close. LGBT human rights advocates feared that the religiously conservative Puerto Rican public would be swayed by the introduction of the “homosexual panic” defense by Martínez Matos.  The suspect contended that he was “cruising for sex” in an area known for prostitution when he met the gay teen, whom Martínez Matos claimed he thought was a woman.  365gay reported in November that when López Mercado’s murderer learned the youth was actually gay, he “flashed back” to a homosexual rape he had reportedly suffered while in prison on an earlier charge, and killed the boy out of uncontrolled rage.  When the “homosexual panic” strategy seemed not to catch hold sufficiently in the media, Martínez Matos’ defense team requested and got a psychological evaluation of their client to determine if he was mentally fit to stand trial. It was determined that he was indeed sane and able to stand trial for the slaying.  The López Mercado murder is easily the most notorious anti-LGBT hate crime killing in Puerto Rico’s history, and supporters of the youth’s family did not want the murderer to escape justice by putting the blame upon Jorge Steven for his own death.  The dramatic confession in Caguas today removed that possibility. Pedro Julio Serrano, representing the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in Puerto Rico, a leading LGBT rights advocate, told the AP that there was not a dry eye in the courtroom when the guilty plea was entered. “Nothing is going to bring Jorge Steven back, but today, a bit of justice was done,” Serrano said.  Primera Hora, according to Lavers of the EDGE, reported that the slain gay teen’s parents, Miriam Mercado and Juan López, reached out to their son’s murder with words of faith.  Full of emotion, López Mercado said, “I want to send a message to Juan (Casper) and tell him there is hope in Christ. The Lord has forgiveness for him, irregardless of what has happened. God has a plan for him if he opens his heart to Christ. God will forgive him also.” Speaking to the EDGE, Pedro Julio Serrano commented  on the confession today, saying, “The [López Mercado] family is sending a powerful message to the world of the love that conquers hate. It was very emotional and it brings some closure, but those wounds will never heal.” In his official statement as spokesperson for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and Founder of the human rights organization Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, Serrano summed up the importance of the Martínez Matos confession, its impact on the family and friends of the slain gay youth, and the task remaining for people who struggle against homophobia and transphobia in the U.S. Territory: “This was a brutal crime, and today’s developments have been very emotional for Jorge Steven’s family and friends, as well as to the entire lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in Puerto Rico. While the guilty plea and sentencing bring some closure, these wounds will never heal for those who knew and loved Jorge Steven. Yet, despite how heart-wrenching this has all been, Jorge Steven’s family has been so loving and strong; they have been and continue to be a symbol of love conquering hate. This has inspired me and so many others in our work to keep this from happening again.”

May 12, 2010 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Blame the victim, Character assassination, Decapitation and dismemberment, desecration of corpses, gay panic defense, gay teens, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, immolation, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Legislation, Media Issues, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Protests and Demonstrations, Puerto Rico, Social Justice Advocacy, stabbings, transphobia, Uncategorized, Vigils | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Puerto Rican Teen Killer Pleads Guilty, Gets 99 Years for Hate Murder

Grief and Outrage Over Transgender Murder in Puerto Rico

Ashley Santiago's family learns of her murder; Israel González photo for Prima Hora

Corozal, Puerto Rico – The Washington Post reports that scores of sobbing mourners wearing tee shirts emblazoned with the likeness of Ashley Santiago Ocasio attended her funeral Friday in the central mountain town of Corozal.  Her mother, Carmen Ocasio, told reporters from Prima Hora that her 31-year-old transgender daughter had no enemies she was aware of, no one she could imagine taking her life.  “I lost my daughter,” she said. “I’m in shock. Why would someone kill Ashley, why?”  Authorities are still searching for a lead in the case, but as the LGBT community in Puerto Rico has come to expect, authorities have not invoked the 2002 hate crime statute that would send a convicted killer to prison for life.  Though the drumbeat of pressure is mounting for prosecutors to apply the unused hate crimes law to LGBT victims, prospects for doing so in this case do not look promising.  Pedro Julio Serrano, spokesperson for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in Puerto Rico, points out that five recent crimes should have been designated terror-attacks against not only the victims, but the entire LGBT population.  Hate crimes against members of the sexual minority are “message-crimes,” meant to drive the LGBT community into fear and hiding.  As Serrano notes, one of the five recent cases was the November 2009 decapitation, dismemberment, and immolation of gay teen Jorge Steven López Mercado in Caguas.  A charge of first-degree murder has been filed against the youth’s alleged killer, but the hate crime statute has not been invoked even in a slaughter so gruesome as this.  In the Santiago case, police are speculating that robbery may have been a motive in the slaying of the popular, attractive beauty salon owner.  Two evidentiary aspects of the investigation so far seem to argue against a robbery motive alone, however.  First, Ms. Santiago’s home showed no signs of breaking and entering.  Someone she knew probably carried out the murder. Even though her automobile was taken from the scene, as Pedro Serrano observed to the Post, “The law is very clear and we’re asking authorities to investigate without prejudice. Even if Ashley’s death was also a robbery, there could be the angle of hate. We need that to be investigated,” Serrano emphasized to the Post.  The chief investigator has promised to used the Puerto Rican hate crimes law “if the evidence warrants it.”  The second aspect of the murder that suggests Serrano is right, that hate against Ms. Santiago was probably a factor is the extreme nature of the crime scene.  There was so much blood, so widely pooled and spattered, that police believed from the beginning of the investigation that the victim had been stabbed multiple times, hardly likely for a robbery alone.  The overkill typical of anti-LGBT crimes is clearly present in the Santiago slaying. The community of Corozal is stunned in the wake of their most notorious murder.  Ms. Santiago was well-liked in town, confident that her transition was the fulfillment of herself as a person.  She had commenced hormone therapy, and had undergone breast surgery, according to Serrano.  The usually neglected Transgender Community on the Caribbean island paradise is waiting for a break in the case, and firmly demanding justice for their sister Ashley.

April 27, 2010 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Decapitation and dismemberment, funerals, gay teens, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Legislation, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Puerto Rico, Social Justice Advocacy, stabbings, transgender persons, transphobia, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Grief and Outrage Over Transgender Murder in Puerto Rico

Brutal Stabbing Death of Puerto Rican Transwoman Possible Hate Murder

Corozal, Puerto Rico – Ashley Santiago’s mother pressed police to investigate why she had not heard from her daughter since Sunday, April 18.  When law enforcement entered Santiago’s home on April 19 in Corozal, a municipality just 25 miles southwest of San Juan, they found her naked body in a large pool of blood collapsed on the kitchen floor.  She had been stabbed 14 times, according to the report of authorities to El Nuevo Día.  Police also reported that they could not find Santiago’s 2009 Toyota Corolla parked outside her home.  EDGE Boston picked up the story overnight, and has flashed it across the United States’ LGBT blogosphere.  Santiago, 31, was a popular hair stylist at a local salon. Echoes of the savage dismemberment-killing of gay teen Jorge Steven López Mercado in November 2009 still reverberate around the island.  His alleged murderer, Juan A. Martínez Matos, has yet to stand trial for the beheading, butchery, and attempted immolation of his victim.  After several postponements, Martínez Matos is docketed to stand trial for the murder of López Mercado in Caguas on May 3.  While law enforcement officials have not yet designated Santiago’s murder as a hate crime due to the perceived sexual orientation or gender identity and expression of the victim, LGBT activists across the region are calling on police to invoke Puerto Rico’s seldom-used hate crimes statute which covers anti-LGBT hate crimes.  Pedro Julio Serrano, noted San Juan activist who represents the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in Puerto Rico, told EDGE, “The authorities have a legal obligation to investigate this hate angle. We urge the police and the prosecutor to appropriately investigate this murder; to determine whether it was motivated by prejudice and if there is enough evidence to classify it as a hate crime at this moment.”  As Transrespect Versus Transphobia, a TVT monitoring agency in Europe reports, a transperson’s murder is reported every third day throughout the world, on average. for the last year and a half.  Authorities acknowledge, however, the deep under-reporting of the actual number of transphobic murders.

April 20, 2010 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, home-invasion, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Legislation, Puerto Rico, Social Justice Advocacy, stabbings, transgender persons, transphobia, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Brutal Stabbing Death of Puerto Rican Transwoman Possible Hate Murder

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

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