Sunday, March 25, 2007

Ruby Rodriguez - another transgender murder

A Nicaraguan transgender woman, Ruby Rodriguez, 24 years old, was murdered on Friday, March 16, 2007. Her body was found on the corner of Cesar Chavez and Indiana Streets in the Mission District of San Francisco. The murder is currently under investigation by the San Francisco Police Department. Community United Against Violence (CUAV), EL-LA, San Francisco LGBT Community Center, TRANS Project, allies, and community members [held] a community vigil in her honor on Friday, March 23, 2007 at 6:00PM, on the corner of 24th Street and Mission Street in the Mission District.. . . She was an exceptional woman who was intent on improving her life. Ruby participated in various support groups and language classes, and idolized Chicana singer Selena.This murder comes at the heels of at least two other violent deaths of transgender women of color in the San Francisco Bay Area over the past six months. Transgender people, particularly low-income transgender women of color, are disproportionately poor, homeless, criminalized and imprisoned as a result of systemic discrimination in our daily attempts to access safe housing, healthcare, employment, and education.Unfortunately, Ruby's murder is not an exception, but an everyday fear for many transgender people who are targeted and brutalized by institutions and society at large. Our communities mourn Ruby's death and ask for a renewed commitment to real safety for transgender communities. It is vital that the Mayor's Office, the San Francisco Police Department, and the District Attorney's Office work to end the cycles of criminalization, poverty, and violence in transgender communities and communities of color.After the 2002 murder of Hayward transgender teen Gwen Araujo, a jury found her killers (some of whom had sex with Gwen) guilty of second degree murder, but declined to return a conviction on a hate crime charge. Still, as the Transgender law Center pointed out:
. . . the Alameda County District Attorney’s office has set a new standard for prosecuting transgender murder cases. You don’t have to look any further than Fresno County to see what the standard still is in many DA’s offices. Last month, a Fresno County DA accepted a four year plea bargain for a person who confessed to stabbing and killing a transgender person. In stark contrast, the Alameda DA’s office devoted their office’s full resources to this case not once, but twice. Along the way, they faced and beat down some of the most egregious uses of transgender panic tactics that many of us hope to ever see in a courtroom.This year, we also saw media coverage that had once been sensationalistic and oftentimes disrespectful of Gwen’s identity evolve into coverage that correctly identified the defendant’s as the people on trial (not Gwen) and their actions as the thing being judged (not Gwen’s identity). This evolution is not limited to Bay Area print, broadcast, and internet journalists. I’ve spoken with journalists from around the U.S. who have said that the coverage of this case has sparked dialogues and changes in their newsrooms as well.Gwen's murder & the consquent trial resulted in CA Governor Schwarzenegger signing the
Gwen Araujo Justice for Victims Act (AB 1160), which "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."
"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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