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Gwen Araujo Justice for Victims Act Becomes Law!
by Chris Daley
Thursday Sep 28th, 2006 11:21 PM
Nation’s first law addressing use of panic strategies signed by California Governor
San Francisco, CA – The nation’s first bill to address use of panic strategies, the Gwen Araujo Justice for Victims Act (AB 1160), was signed into law today by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Authored by Assemblywoman Sally Lieber and Sponsored by Equality California, the bill 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.



"This is a victory for fairness in our criminal justice system and a tribute to the courage of Gwen Araujo,” said Assemblywoman Lieber of her bill that also modifies an existing jury instruction and mandates the creation of practice materials for District Attorney’s offices. “Too many Californians live with the very real fear that they will be victimized simply because of who they are. Making sure that our court system treats every one fairly, regardless of individual differences, is essential.”



“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. "My family and friends received a life sentence when Gwen was murdered. This victory means that our loss is making a difference, though, because we’re helping to prevent any other family from going through the same pain and misery."



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.



"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. “The Gwen Araujo Justice for Victims Act is a significant step towards preventing the same societal bias that killed Gwen and Joel from affecting a jury’s deliberations. It’s signage into law also advances California’s status as the most protective state in the nation for transgender people.”

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The Transgender Law Center (TLC) is a civil rights organization advocating for transgender communities throughout California through direct legal services, community organizing, media and public policy advocacy, and educational opportunities. TLC was an early supporter of the Gwen Araujo Justice for Victim’s Act. For more information, go to: http://www.transgenderlawcenter.org
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Issue not so clear-cutObserverFriday Sep 29th, 2006 4:43 AM