poetics, time, body disruption and marginally queer solutions

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Justice postponed
by Gwendolyn Ann Smith

In Newark, Calif., the jury in the Gwen Araujo trial has hung, leaving it to the district attorney to retry the three men accused of killing her. The argument made by the defense of two of these men was simple: What reasonable person wouldn't murder this young woman if they found out she had male genitalia?

I attended some of this trial, and as a transgender woman myself, it was often difficult to sit in that courtroom and listen to Gwen continue to be mistreated. She was an object of scorn at times, stripped of her preferred identity by defense and prosecution alike, left to face the final ridicule of having those who killed her defended because, it was argued, an "average, ordinary, reasonable person" would have killed her.

I fail to see how a murder that went on for three to four hours could be seen as reasonable. Nor does it take into account that at least one witness to this crime, Paul Merel, did do the reasonable thing the night Gwen was killed. He left the house, fearing for his own safety around Jaron Nabors, Jason Cazares, Michael Magidson and his own brother, Jose. This seems far more reasonable to me than hitting a person with a soup can and a skillet, kicking her in the face so hard you leave an indentation in the wall behind her head and strangling her with a length of rope.

To the jury's credit, many of them rejected the defense's claim, at least as far as calling this a manslaughter case versus murder. But the so-called "trans panic" argument the defense put forward may well have been one of the stumbling blocks that caused the jury to derail.


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