Friday, October 10, 2008

Gwen Araujo - Have We Forgotten?

Gwen AraujoThis week marks the anniversary of the murder of Gwen Araujo Are we not remembering, or do we just not care? Gwen's murder is usually overshadowed by Matthew Shepard. (A quick Google News Search shows 600 and some news stories on Shepard, and 4 on Araujo.) If it wasn't for the movie that was made, I doubt many people would know her name.

Should someone die for being different? Is it OK to kill someone because they aren't who you thought they were? Rolling Stone has a pretty graphic description of the murder, maybe you should go look at the hell Gwen endured before answering that question.

Some lawyers seem to think it is OK to kill based on your biases.. It is called the “Gay Panic” defense. They tried it in this case because Gwen Araujo was transgender. She was murdered because some guys she had been intimate with couldn't stand that she wasn't who they thought she was. The jury wasn't buying it in this case, but all too often murderers get off. Consider the case of William Palmer.
He claimed he picked up Chanelle Pickett in a bar without realizing she was biologically male. The medical examiner testified that Pickett was beaten and "throttled" for eight minutes, but the jury acquitted Palmer of murder and manslaughter, convicting him merely of assault and battery. Decrying Pickett's two-year sentence, transgender observer Toni Black said "I've seen people get more jail time for abusing animals. ... We've been judged expendable."
People make bad decisions all the time. They take chances they shouldn't. This does not absolve others of their responsibilities under the law - or under morality. Making bad decisions should not be a capital offense.

Would you want to live in a world where anyone considered to have "made bad choices," or was "expendable" for other reasons, could be killed with impunity? Think Nazi Germany, and consider what the pink triangle and the black triangle meant. Remember Srebrenica and all the other places where genocide was (or is) carried out. Think about the way Saudi Arabia treats its citizens. Do you want to live in a place like that?

The whole "gay panic" defense (or "trans-panic" in this case) is another attempt, in a long line of legal maneuvers, to say that people are not responsible for their own actions. They panicked. They freaked-out. Circumstances conspired to rob them of their free will. The devil made them do it. Sorry, no. Unless you are legally insane, you are responsible for every one of your actions. You may not like that, but being an adult is a bitch.

Unfortunately, juries are still buying this "defense."
A gay Atlanta man was bludgeoned to death and his confessed killer walked free after claiming he was forced into a sexual act and responded in self-defense. The killer of a Kentucky man whose body was stuffed in a suitcase and dumped into a lake also claimed he acted to thwart a sexual advance and was convicted of manslaughter instead of murder.
No witnesses, except the killer, to these "sexual advances." A bit convenient if you can just say "he came on to me," and that makes it OK to commit murder. (Would this work for any woman the subject of an unwanted "sexual advance?" I didn't think so.)

This defense didn't work in the case of Gwen Araujo, and California has moved to limit it. In at least one other state, a ruling against the "defense" has been issued by the courts.

Of the four people who brutally murdered Gwen Araujo, 2 were sentenced to 15-years-to-life for second degree murder, one plead no-contest to a manslaughter charge and is serving 6 years, and the fourth is serving 11 years as part of a plea bargain.

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