Lopez murder to be tried as hate crime

Posted on 15 Dec 2009 at 2:23pm
Murder victim Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado, right, and Juan Martinez Matos, left, the man accused of killing him
Murder victim Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado, left, and Juan Martinez Matos, right, the man accused of killing him

The U.S. Attorney for Puerto Rico, Rosa Emilia Rodriguez, has said that her office will be filing hate crime charges against Juan A. Martinez Matos in connection with the murder last month of gay teen Jorge Steve Lopez Mercado, if local authorities do not charge him with a hate crime, according to reports today on Edge.com.

Martinez Matos has reportedly confessed to stabbing Lopez Mercado, dismembering his body and then setting him on fire. If he is tried on federal hate crimes charges, he will be the first person to face such charges since President Barack Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act into law in October, according to Edge.com. That act added sexual orientation and gender identity to the federal hate crimes law.

The gay news site also reports that a judge in Caguas, Puerto Rico has ordered that Martinez Matos undergo a psychiatric evaluation to make sure he is competent to stand trial.

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