Puerto Rico Murder and Texas Assault to be Prosecuted as Hate Crimes

Two weeks ago, I told you about a rash of hate crimes against LGBT people. Now comes the welcome news that two of those crimes will be prosecuted with hate crime “enhancements”.

On November 14th, the decapitated, dismembered body of Jorge Steven López Mercado (henceforth Steven López) was found in Cayey, Puerto Rico. Steven’s murderer was arrested and confessed, at which time he began floating a Gay/Trans Panic defense. (more on the Trans component in a future post)

Puerto Rico activist Pedro Julio Serrano quickly called on the Puerto Rican government to prosecute the murder as a hate crime, a literally unprecedented move in the US commonwealth.

After meeting with local ACLU representatives, the Puerto Rican government last Wednesday announced that hate crime charges would indeed be included in the prosecution of Juan Antonio Martínez Matos. Boy in Bushwick reports:

Puerto Rican authorities have agreed to investigate Jorge Steven López Mercado’s murder as a hate crime after they met with local representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union.

“The ACLU has tried to get the government to accept its responsibility to investigate cases . . . that are hate crimes, particularly that of young Jorge Steven López Mercado,” [William Ramírez, executive director of the PR chapter of the ACLU] said in a statement. “We should not be satisfied with the possibility the federal government will do what our government is not interested in doing; which is to protect every citizen.”

Activists on Puerto Rico and around the country have repeatedly called upon local authorities to charge Matos under Puerto Rico’s hate crimes law, which includes sexual orientation. They have also blasted investigator Ángel Rodríguez Colón’s assertion López somehow contributed to his own death. The Federal Bureau of Investigation in San Juan has not ruled out the possibility of additional federal charges in the case.

Meanwhile, Rod McCullom of Rod 2.0 has news on hate crime charges in the case of Jayron Martin, a 16-year-old Houston student who was severely beaten after being refused help by two assistant principals and a school bus driver.

Sources in Houston and at the Human Rights Campaign in Washington tell Rod 2.0 the suspect will be charged as an adult with assault and a hate crimes sentencing enhancement. Texas hate crimes law explicitly includes “sexual preference”.

Rod also reports that the bus driver will likely be fired for allowing Jayron to exit the bus with the group of thugs that had threatened to assault him. No word on the two administrators who also ignored his pleas for help.