Passion Blamed for Teen’s Slaying
A defense attorney for one of three men charged with killing a transgender teen described his client Thursday as a quiet, even-tempered man caught up by ungovernable passions the night he discovered he had unwittingly had sex with a man.
“What followed was absolute pandemonium and chaos,” said attorney Michael Thorman, who described the killing as “classic manslaughter,” not murder.
Thorman is representing Michael Magidson, 23, who along with Jason Cazares and Jose Merel, both 24, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Eddie “Gwen” Araujo.
A fourth man who was initially charged in the case, 20-year-old Jaron Nabors, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and has been promised a sentence of 11 years in exchange for testifying against his friends.
The four men met Araujo, whom they knew as “Lida,” in the summer of 2002. Merel and Magidson, according to Nabors, had sex with Araujo, but became suspicious about the teen’s gender after comparing notes.
On Oct. 3, 2002, the men confronted Araujo at Merel’s house in Newark, a San Francisco suburb, and demanded: “Are you a woman or a man?” Another woman at the house found out the truth by grabbing Araujo’s genitals.
Uproar ensued. The 17-year-old Araujo was punched, choked, hit with a skillet, kneed in the face, tied up and strangled. Araujo was buried in a remote area near Lake Tahoe; about two weeks later Nabors led police to the victim’s body.
The killing, which was charged as a hate crime, drew national headlines and focused new attention on violence against people who believe their true gender isn’t the one they were born with.
In his opening statement Wednesday, prosecutor Chris Lamiero described Magidson as a tough guy with something to prove.
But Thorman said Magidson was slow to anger and not someone who had a problem with people who were different.
“This crime didn’t occur because Mike had a bias,” Thorman said. “It happened because of the discovery of what Eddie had done.”
Cazares’ attorney, Tony Serra, told jurors that his client was an introvert who had tried to protect Araujo the night of the murder and had never struck the teen.