A man on trial in the killing of a transgender teen acted out of shame and revulsion upon discovering that he had had sex with a man, a defense attorney said Thursday, arguing that the crime was not murder but “classic manslaughter.”
The argument came on the second day of opening statements in the trial of three men charged with murdering Eddie “Gwen” Araujo, 17. The teenager, who lived as a woman, was beaten, strangled and buried in a shallow grave in 2002 after it was discovered that Araujo was biologically male.
“It brought shame and humiliation, shock and revulsion,” said Michael Thorman, the attorney for Michael Magidson, 23.
Testimony began with details about Araujo’s autopsy. The victim’s mother, Sylvia Guerrero, dug in her purse for a tissue as jurors were shown photographs of the teen’s battered body. She briefly left the courtroom as the injuries were discussed.
Attracted national publicity
The killing drew national attention to the issue of violence against people whose sexual identity conflicts with their biology.
Prosecutor Chris Lamiero, in his opening statement Wednesday, called the death an execution and portrayed Magidson as a tough guy with something to prove and the man who pulled the rope tight around Araujo’s neck.
But Magidson’s lawyer described him as a quiet man, slow to anger. The lawyer said he would put on witnesses who are gay and socialized with Magidson and never saw any evidence of bias.
Two others on trial
Also on trial are Jose Merel and Jason Cazares, both 24. A fourth man, 20-year-old Jaron Nabors, was charged with murder but pleaded guilty to manslaughter and has been promised an 11-year prison sentence in exchange for testifying against the others.
According to authorities, Magidson and Merel turned on Araujo after they had sex with the teen, became suspicious about Araujo’s gender and began to compare notes.
Cazares’ lawyer argued that his client had only a peripheral role and was drunk and confused the night of the confrontation. Merel’s attorney did not make an opening statement Thursday.
Outside court, Araujo family lawyer Gloria Allred criticized the defense for allegedly blaming the victim. She said Araujo was living honestly as the woman she believed herself to be. “The real betrayal was by the defendants,” Allred said.