A judge has set the trial date for Juan A. Martínez Matos, the man who confessed to the recent gruesome
murder and dismemberment of 19-year-old Jorge Steven López Mercado, the gay teenager in Puerto Rico killed in November.
Judge Roberto Anglero announced earlier today Juan
José Martínez Matos’ trial will begin in Caguas on March 30. He denied a
defense motion to lessen one of the charges against Martínez to second
degree murder. Prosecutors contend Martínez, who faces a first
degree murder and three weapons charges, stabbed Jorge Steven López
Mercado to death on Nov. 12, 2009. They further allege the suspect
decapitated, dismembered and partially burned López’s body before he
dumped it along a remote roadside near Cayey.
Several of López’s friends and acquaintances have identified Martínez as the man with whom they last saw the teenager as EDGE reported on Feb. 6. Details of López’s reported drug use and prostitution emerged during the preliminary hearing, but Pedro Julio Serrano of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force applauded prosecutor Yaritza Carrasquillo’s handling of this case. "She sent a very powerful message not to judge Jorge Steven; the person who should be judged is Juan Martínez Matos," he said.
Martínez confessed to killing López in what is described as "gay panic". In December, an initial court-ordered psychiatric evaluation of the 26-year-Martínez found he was incompetent to stand trial . López' family and local activists were outraged and believed Martínez was faking mental illness. After additional court-ordered examinations, the self-confessed killer was found competent.
To date, Puerto Rico's Republican Gov. Luis Fortuño, who resisted efforts to prosecute the case a hate crime, has yet to publicly comment on the López case.