Jorge Lopez Mercado, left
Another gay teenager has been butchered in the streets, this time in Puerto Rico. Another bloody and unnecessary death. And probably a hate crime.
Murder charges were filed Wednesday in the slaying of a gay teenager whose decapitated, partially burned body was found last week, while U.S. authorities said they were still considering whether to make it a hate crime case.
I just blogged about hate crimes, and here is the link. http://browardlawblog.blogspot.com/2009/10/understanding-floridas-hate-crime-law.html
Understand this, murder is a hate crime. The effect of a hate crime charge is to raise the level of the penalties and make the criminal face more severe sanctions. But murder carries the ultimate penalty. Can’t do much more then sentence a guy to life in jail or death.
What is clear about the killing of Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado is that it was shockingly violent and brutal, with his body dismembered. All the preliminary evidence suggests he may have been targeted because of his sexuality.
Lopez was widely known as a volunteer for organizations advocating HIV prevention and gay rights, and activists are planning remembrance vigils for him in cities including San Juan, New York and Chicago. We should be. Violence targeting gays is still occurring across the country.
The Lopez situation is not unlike Simmie Williams in Fort Lauderdale, a male victim dressed as a woman in an area known for prostitution. We are hearing about a ‘gay panic’ defense that the assailant went into a murderous rage after discovering his trick was a man, not a woman. That is no excuse for murder. It is an excuse to excuse yourself from the proposed liaison, not a justification for taking the life of another.
Puerto Rico is a US territory and the new hate crime laws apply, but very few prosecutions have emerged out of San Juan over the past few years. Activists say though these laws should be used more vigorously. The FBI is investigating and federal prosecutors will have the final say on how to proceed.
We should turn our attention southward so that an end comes to this inexcusable violence. And we should make this our test case. This was a hate crime to be sure.