Mercado's killer identified, "homosexual panic" likely defense
A suspect arrested in the murder of gay Puerto Rico teen George Steven Lopez Mercado has been identified as 26-year-old Juan Antonio Martinez Matos, a father of four who is likely to use "homosexual panic" as a defense for the brutal killing of Lopez Mercado.
On the night of his death, Mercado was allegedly propositioned by Martinez Matos who was cruising for sex in a "red light district". Martinez Matos decapitated, dismembered and burned Mercado before dumping his body on a roadside in Caguas, Puerto Rico.
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. The victim asked him for money and when he refused, Lopez Mercado pulled out a knife. When Martinez Matos realized that the teenager was actually male, he had a flashback to when he was raped in prison while he was serving a sentence for domestic violence. He then attacked Lopez Mercado, separating his arms from his torso.
Police found a wig, a knife, a burned mattress, a burned PVC pipe and blood on the wall where the murder took place.
The forensic evidence is being investigated by the FBI. Though they have not specified charges yet, the DA says that he is sure this qualifies as a hate crime.
Activists are calling for justice and for the media to focus on the suspect’s acts instead of the behavior of the victim.
Juan Costa Rivera, who knows Lopez Mercado's friends, says Martinez Matos will likely use a "homosexual panic" defense, arguing for a plea of temporary insanity.
Rivera says the police told media outlets that the suspect will likely use a “homosexual panic” defense, arguing for a plea of temporary insanity.
Is homosexual panic a legitimate defense? According to Kara S. Suffredini, author of Pride and Prejudice: The Homosexuality Panic Defense, it is not.
Gays experience a disturbing paradox in American society today: while the gay rights movement enjoys increased visibility, gay-bashing is perhaps the most common and most rapidly increasing of hate-related crimes. The Homosexual Panic Defense (HPD) is based on the homosexual panic disorder, a scientific and medical explanation of, and justification for, the behavior of defendants who murder gay individuals. However, while used to justify some of the most frequent and heinous of hate crimes, the HPD has no uniform definition across cases and bears only a tenuous connection to the psychiatric disorder that legitimizes it. This Note explores the disassociation between the disorder and the defense, and argues that the HPD is not actually based on the psychiatric disorder, but rather on social and institutional prejudice against gays. This Note concludes that the HPD’s use must, therefore, either be limited by the application of new evidentiary rules, using the rape-shield rules as a guide, or better yet, eliminated altogether.
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