Two Postpone Pleas in Newark Teen's Death
Defendants' Attorneys Want Time to Review Tapes of Police Interviews with Witnesses
[NEWARK, CA] - Two of the three alleged killers of transgender Newark teenager Eddie (Gwen) Araujo delayed entering pleas Friday, saying they needed more time to review almost 30 taped police witness interviews.
All three defendants -- Jaron Nabors, Michael Magidson and Jose Merel -- are expected to return to the Fremont Hall of Justice on Dec. 13 in connection with the beating and strangling death of Araujo, whom they knew as a woman named Lida until they discovered the 17-year-old was a biological male at an Oct. 3 party at Merel's house in Newark.
Nabors has pleaded not guilty, and the other two are expected to do the same next month. A preliminary hearing probably won't occur until spring.
Outside the courtroom, Magidson's attorney, Michael Thorman, said he didn't trust the police reports' condensed version of the dozens of witness interviews taken after the party, and wanted to listen to the taped statements himself. He said there was no evidence Magidson strangled Araujo, and that his client certainly did not kill Araujo out of hate for his "sexual or gender orientation."
A hate-crime enhancement was added to the murder charge for each of the defendants, possibly tacking on four years to what could be a 15- years-to-life in prison sentence.
The courtroom was so crowded that dozens of the defendants' friends were kept outside by sheriff's deputies. Only relatives of the defendants and Araujo were allowed in the courtroom, many sitting side by side.
The brief court appearance turned into a news conference for Araujo's family, who has hired renowned women's rights attorney Gloria Allred of Los Angeles to help them navigate the court system and barrage of media who have turned the local story into a national one. Allred flew to the Bay Area for the hearing and a candlelight vigil scheduled Friday night before the opening of "The Laramie Project" at Newark Memorial High School. The play documents the aftermath of the brutal 1998 slaying of Matthew Shepard, a gay Wyoming college student.
Reading from a prepared two-page statement, Allred told almost a dozen reporters that Araujo was an innocent victim killed in a senseless crime.
"Our gift from God"
Araujo's mother, Sylvia Guerrero, also read from a statement, tears filling her blue eyes.
"The pain of his loss is with me every day and has not lessened since the day that I learned that he was never coming home again," Guerrero said. "Not a day goes by that I don't break down in tears at some point in the day. We accepted him as he was. He was our gift from God and we miss him more than words can say."