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California | LGBTI / Queer

Fri Oct 6 2006 Nation’s First Law Addressing Use of Panic Strategies Signed by California Governor
The nation’s first bill to address use of panic strategies, the Gwen Araujo Justice for Victims Act (AB 1160), was signed into law on September 28th by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The bill was written by Assemblywoman Sally Lieber and sponsored by Equality California. It puts California firmly on record as opposing a defendant’s use of societal bias against their victim in order to decrease their own culpability for a crime.

Gwen Araujo, the bill’s namesake, was a 17 year old Newark, CA transgender teen who was murdered by four men in 2002. Three of the men utilized panic strategies when on trial for her murder in 2004. A 2005 Fresno County case against the killer of another transgender person, Joel Robles, ended in an alarming 4 year plea bargain. Newspaper reports quoted an Assistant District Attorney as attributing the light sentence, in part, to threatened use of panic strategies.

The bill also modifies an existing jury instruction and mandates the creation of practice materials for District Attorney’s offices. "Panic strategies are a cynical way for homicide defendants whose victims are members of a disfavored group to appeal to a jury’s worst impulses,” said Transgender Law Center Director Christopher Daley. “I’m overjoyed that the Governor saw fit to recognize that our state is one in which every person, including my daughter and other transgender people, must be valued," said Sylvia Guerrero, mother of Gwen Araujo. Read more

Transgender Law Center | Past coverage of AB 1160 | Indybay's coverage of sentencing | Past Coverage of verdict for two killers | Coverage of first trial

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