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Gwen Araujo Justice for Victims Act Advances in CA Senate
by Chris Daley
Wednesday Jun 28th, 2006 11:05 PM
California took another step towards becoming the first state to meaningfully respond to strategies that blame transgender people for their own murders. The Gwen Araujo Justice for Victims Act (AB 1160), authored by Assemblymember Sally Lieber and sponsored by Equality California, passed through the Senate Public Safety Committee on a 4-2 vote yesterday afternoon.
June 28, 2006 – San Francisco – California took another step towards becoming the first state to meaningfully respond to strategies that blame transgender people for their own murders. The Gwen Araujo Justice for Victims Act (AB 1160), authored by Assemblymember Sally Lieber and sponsored by Equality California, passed through the Senate Public Safety Committee on a 4-2 vote yesterday afternoon. Sylvia Guerrero, testifying about the bill named after her murdered transgender daughter, spoke about the need for educating juries about bias in order to prevent defendants from successfully blaming their victims for their own murders through use of the so-called “panic strategies.”
“Since my daughter was killed, my family and I have spent literally thousands of hours working hard to make sure that California is a state where everyone is respected and treated fairly. The Gwen Araujo Justice for Victims Act will really help us in our work,” said Guerrero. “[The bill] will give jurors the information they need to better understand their obligation to make decisions free of bias against the victim.”
AB 1160 now moves to the Senate Appropriations committee for consideration of a new provision earmarking $125,000 for the creation of educational materials about panic strategies to be distributed to District Attorneys’ office throughout the state. This provision responds to a 2005 decision by the Fresno County District Attorney to agree to a plea bargain resulting in a 4 year sentence for a person believed to have stabbed a transgender person 20 times with a pair of scissors. When asked about this light sentence for a homicide, an attorney from the DA’s office is reported to have attributed it, in part, to use of panic strategies.
“Outcomes like these turn our state’s hate crimes and anti-discrimination laws on their heads,” said Christopher Daley, Director of the Transgender Law Center. “The Gwen Araujo Justice for Victim’s Act is a logical step forward in ensuring that such outcomes, based on the bias we’ve already outlawed in employment, housing, education, insurance, and public accommodations, don’t put transgender people and others at risk for violent crimes.”
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Transgender Law Center (http://www.transgenderlawcenter.org) TLC is a civil rights organization advocating for transgender communities through direct legal services, education, community organizing, and policy and media advocacy.
Mother Of Murdered Trans Teen Pleads With Calif. Senate To Pass 'Gay Panic' Bill
by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff
June 28, 2006 - 11:00 am ET
(Sacramento, California) The mother of Gwen Araujo made a passionate plea Tuesday before a California Senate committee for support of legislation curbing the so-called gay panic defense.
"Since my daughter was killed, my family and I have spent literally thousands of hours working hard to make sure that California is a state where everyone is respected and treated fairly," Sylvia Guerrero. told the Senate Committee on Public Safety.
The Gwen Araujo Justice for Victims Act would place restrictions on the way the defense tactic is presented to juries.
If a defense attorney attempted to use the argument that a client committed a crime out of panic because the victim were gay or trans a judge would be required to instruct the jury that the use of societal bias, including so-called "panic strategies," to influence the proceedings of a criminal trial is inconsistent with the public policy of the State of California.
The bill, authored by Assemblymember Sally Lieber (D-San Jose) also includes funding for training district attorneys in how to address attempts to use the “panic strategy.”
“By providing funding to train district attorney’s on how to effectively deal with the so-called “panic strategy” and telling juries that they cannot allow bias against the victim due to their gender, sexual orientation, race or religion to influence their verdict, this legislation is an important step forward in the effort to ensure that those who commit hate crimes are properly punished,” said Equality California Legislative Advocate Alice Kessler who testified along with Sylvia Guerrero.
The bill passed by a 4-2 margin and now moves to the Senate Appropriations Committee in August. The measure passed the Assembly in January.
Araujo was a transgender 17-year old teenager from Newark, Calif., who was attacked and killed in 2002. The men beat her to death and then buried her in a shallow desert grave.
On January 27, 2006, three of the four defendants were sentenced in the slaying. Michael Magidson and Jose Merel, were convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to 15 years to life and Jason Cazares, received a six-year term.
Defense lawyers claimed their clients acted out of panic after having sex with the teen and then discovering she was born biologically male.
The fourth man, Jaron Nabors, pleaded guilty and received an 11-year sentence in exchange for testifying against his accomplices.
Documents associated with AB 1160 in the 2005-2006 Session