Puerto Rico – first recorded hate crime murder?

November 19, 2009

There are many reports from various sources (Vivir Latino, Dallas Voice and others) about this horrific murder:

The suspect in the brutal slaying of a gay teenager in Puerto Rico was charged Wednesday with first-degree murder and four other counts, the prosecutor in the case told CNN.

Juan A. Martinez Matos was arrested late Monday in connection with the slaying of Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado, whose decapitated, dismembered and partially burned body was found Friday afternoon on a road in central Puerto Rico.

(Via CNN)

The usual media misgendering seems to be at play here, making it hard to unpick the reports, but several sources point out that:

Martinez Matos was “looking for women” in a red light district last Friday. He had already been turned down several times, but Lopez Mercado, wearing a blue dress and boots, agreed to get in his car.

District Attorney Jose J. Bermudez says that in his confession, Martinez Matos said that he thought Lopez Mercado was a woman.

(From 365gay.com via translation of a report in El Nuevo Dia)

Which makes me wonder if the victim may have been a transgender woman, despite the majority of the reports I’ve read referring to a “gay teen” and using male pronouns and a name which may well have been the name in hir legal documentation, but perhaps may not have been the name ze always went by. Regardless, it’s hard not to see it as a blatant and cynical attempt by the accused to lay the foundations for either a gay panic or trans panic defense at his trial.

But it seems the victim-blaming isn’t restricted to just the accused and the media. The local Police Department clearly also has its share of bigots:

The Puerto Rico Police Department has removed Investigator Angel Rodriguez from the case after Rodriguez made comments suggesting that Lopez was to blame for his own death, according to Edge.

“When these type of people get into this and go out into the streets like this, they know this can happen to them,” Rodriguez reportedly said in a statement to local media outlets.

(From EDGE United States via Dallas Voice)

As regards the hate crime aspect:

Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, the LGBT advocacy group […] is calling on police to investigate the case as an anti-gay hate crime. Although Puerto Rico added sexual orientation to its hate crimes statute in 2002, Para Tod@s says the statute hasn’t been used to prosecute anti-gay violence. The FBI has announced it will take jurisdiction over the case if it’s determined that Lopez was killed because he was gay.

(From EDGE United States via Dallas Voice)

And if it’s determined that ze was killed because ze was trans? I wonder if the hate crime legislation takes account of that possibility.

Anyway. I’d like to close with the words of Bob McCranie, one of the organisers of a candlelight vigil planned for this Sunday:

“A teenager has been burnt and butchered in the streets, and all we can talk about is how many lies are in Sarah Palin’s book, and why Obama bowed to the Japanese prime minister. It is outrageous and unacceptable.”

(Via Dallas Voice)

Amen to that.

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Curtsey to Stefani for the heads up

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Cross-posted at Questioning Transphobia

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