Gwen Araujo trial declared mistrial

from the San Jose Mercury News:
Posted on Tue, Jun. 22, 2004
Judge declares mistrial in Araujo case
By Yomi S. Wronge
Mercury News
An Alameda County judge this morning declared a mistrial in the Gwen Araujo case after jurors said they were hopelessly deadlocked on whether three men killed the transgender Newark teenager.
Superior Court Judge Harry Sheppard announced the decision in a Hayward courtroom shortly before 10 a.m. after hearing from the 8-man, 4-woman panel, and individually asking them if further deliberations would help them reach verdicts. Only two said that was a possibility, the others said it would do no good.
The had been deliberating the fate of Jose Merel, Jason Cazares and Michael Magidson, all 24, since June 3.
The three were facing first degree murder charges, with a hate crime enhancement, for allegedly killing Gwen.
Gwen, who was 17, was born Eddie Araujo Jr., but identified and lived as a girl. According to trial testimony, Gwen was beaten and strangled after her biological identity was revealed during a confrontation in the early hours of Oct. 4, 2002, at Merel’s house in Newark.
California jurors unable to reach verdict in slaying of transgender teen
By Michelle Locke, Associated Press, 6/22/2004 14:32
HAYWARD, Calif. (AP) A judge declared a mistrial Tuesday in the case of three men accused of killing a transgender teen after jurors declared they were deadlocked.
The case has been closely watched by transgender advocates, who said the verdicts would send a message about how much their lives are valued. Michael Magidson, Jose Merel and Jason Cazares, all 24, were charged with killing a 17-year-old who was known as Gwen but was born Edward Araujo.
According to trial testimony, Araujo was beaten and strangled after her biological identity was revealed during a confrontation on Oct. 4, 2002, at Merel’s house in Newark, a San Francisco suburb. Merel and Magidson had had sexual encounters with Araujo and had become suspicious about Araujo’s gender after comparing notes, according to testimony. Alameda County Superior Court Judge Harry Sheppard declared the mistrial after the jury foreman announced that the eight men and four women were deadlocked after nine days of deliberations. If they had decided to convict, the jury would have had the option of returning verdicts of first-degree murder, punishable by 25 years to life in prison; second-degree murder, 15-to-life; or manslaughter, which carries a maximum term of 11 years.
The case was charged as a hate crime, which could add four years to sentences. Cazares had sought acquittal, saying he wasn’t involved in the killing and only helped bury the body. Magidson’s attorney argued the case was not murder but manslaughter, a crime of passion triggered by sexual fraud.
Mistrial declared in Araujo case
Jurors could not agree on first-degree murder charge
Chronicle Staff Report
Wednesday, June 23, 2004
A judge declared a mistrial Tuesday in the trial of three men accused of killing transgendered Newark teen Gwen Araujo after jurors said they could not agree whether to convict the men of first-degree murder. Judge Harry Sheppard said he believed that the jury was “hopelessly deadlocked” after the jury foreman told him the panel of eight men and four women have been “unable to pass over the point of reasonable doubt. In my personal opinion, further deliberations
would not yield a verdict.”
The panel had been deliberating for the better part of 10 days. Sheppard declared a mistrial after asking each juror whether they were sure the panel could not reach a verdict regarding Michael Magidson, 23, of Fremont, and Jose Merel and Jason Cazares, both 24 and from Newark. The three men stand accused of fatally beating and strangling Gwen Araujo, 17, who was born a boy but lived and identified as a young woman, on Oct. 4, 2002.
Jurors deadlocked on the first degree murder charges against the three men, with seven voting to convict Magidson and two jurors voting to convict Merel and Cazares. Because they could not acquit the three men of first-degree murder, the judge would not allow them to consider whether the men were guilty of the lesser charges of second-degree murder or manslaughter.
Prosecutor Chris Lamiero asked the jury to find the three men guilty of first- degree murder in the killing, which occurred after it was revealed at a party that Araujo was biologically male. Defense attorneys for Magidson and Merel argued the killing was not murder, but manslaughter provoked by the men’s rage at learning they were duped into having sex with a man.
A fourth man, Jaron Nabors, was charged with murder but pleaded guilty to manslaughter in exchange for testifying against the other three during the trial. He described a brutal and chaotic attack that followed the revelation of the teenager’s biological gender.
Nabors said Araujo was choked, punched, slapped, hit on the head by Merel with a can and a skillet, and later tied up and strangled. Nabors said that he did not witness the killing but that he saw Magidson pull a rope toward her neck. The four men then buried Araujo’s body in the El Dorado National Forest. Defense attorneys attacked Nabors’ credibility, arguing that he lied to get a sweetheart plea deal. Cazares testified in his own defense that he tried to help Araujo, that he was outside smoking a cigarette when the killing occurred and that it was Nabors whom he saw emerge from the garage saying “She’s dead.”

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