Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Demands for Justice in Slaying of Gay Teen in Puerto Rico

San Juan, Puerto Rico – The Associated Press reports this evening that in response to mounting pressure from local LGBT activists and the large and vocal Puerto Rican communities in New York and Chicago, the FBI and the United States Attorney’s Office is seriously considering entering the effort to investigate and prosecute Jorge Steven López Mercado’s alleged killer as a hate crime under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act, signed into law last month by President Barack Obama.  Two members of Congress from New York of Puerto Rican descent, U.S. Representative José E. Serrano and U.S. Representative Nydia Velasquez, have both added their influence to bring the U.S. Justice Department into the case.  Puerto Rican police officials have signaled their willingness to proceed with the investigation as a possible anti-LGBT hate crime, as well.  A prosecutor who interviewed Juan Antonio Martínez Matos, the alleged murderer, said that he confessed to have stabbed 19-year-old López Mercado after he discovered that he had solicited sex from a male and not a female.  The prosecutor, José Bermudez Santos, remarked to a local newspaper that  Matos said he met his victim Thursday night in a section known for prostitution.  The confessed killer went on to say that López Mercado was wearing a dress at the time.  “He [Matos] has a deep-seated rage,” Santos went on to say.  Matos was charged on Wednesday with first-degree murder and weapons violations, and then jailed with a $4 million bond.  Should he be convicted, he would likely face life in prison without hope of parole.  Puerto Rican LGBT advocates have been quick to bring the focus of media back to the heinous nature of the crime, rather than the alleged descriptions of the victim.  They insist that no one lose sight of the fact that a horrific crime has been committed against a well-known member of their community, a young person who volunteered for HIV prevention and for gay rights.  Local LGBT rights activist, Pedro Julio Serrano, who represents the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in Puerto Rico, said that there had been more than 10 anti-LGBT murders on the island in the last seven years that should have been investigated as hate crimes.  While there is a statute on the books concerning hate crimes already, enacted into law in 2002, sexual orientation has never been permitted as a protected category.  Should the murder of López Mercado be prosecuted as a bias-related crime, it will be a first in Puerto Rican history.  “The people of Puerto Rico are very inclusive and accepting of differences,” Serrano remarked to the AP. “I think these kinds of crimes show the ugly side of homophobia, but it’s a minority of people that are willing to be so violent in expressing their prejudice.”  LGBT historians note that Puerto Rico has a grim heritage of homophobic and transphobic crimes.  According to the Enquirer-Herald, the island was terrorized in the 1980’s by serial killer Angel Colón Maldonado, called “The Angel of the Bachelors,” for slaying 27 gay men before his capture.  Maldonado is serving life in prison.  These crimes notwithstanding, Puerto Rico also has shown itself to be more inclusive and welcoming of LGBT people than some other Caribbean islands, like Jamaica, where queer folk are still deeply closeted.  Serrano announced a protest at the Capitol in San Juan on Thursday.  Rallies and memorial gatherings are planned on the mainland in Dallas, Chicago and New York this weekend.

November 19, 2009 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Blame the victim, Decapitation and dismemberment, gay men, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, immolation, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Legislation, Matthew Shepard Act, Media Issues, multiple homicide, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Protests and Demonstrations, Puerto Rico, Remembrances, Social Justice Advocacy, stabbings, Torture and Mutilation, trans-panic defense, transgender persons, transphobia, U.S. House of Representatives | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Demands for Justice in Slaying of Gay Teen in Puerto Rico

   

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