A guilty plea and a 99-year-sentence in the gruesome murder and dismemberment of a gay teenager in Puerto Rico that captured international attention.
Juan A. Martínez Matos confessed to killing 19-year-old Jorge Steven López Mercado on November 13, 2008. Martínez plead guilty to first degree murder and three weapons charges only days before his trial was to begin, Michael K. Lavers at EDGE reports.
"Martínez had been scheduled to go on trial for Jorge Steven López Mercado’s death on Monday, May 17, confessed to the crime during a hearing in Caguas on Wednesday, May 12. Martínez told the court he understood the consequences of his actions, and Judge Miriam Camila Jusino immediately sentenced him to 99 years in prison.Primera Hora reported López’s parents, Myriam Mercado and Jorge López, hugged prosecutor Yaritza Carrasquillo after the hearing. Mercado told the newspaper, however, Martínez’s confession was bittersweet for her and her family. 'We are able to find a bit of peace in this aspect, but it still not going to return Steven,' she said. 'But at least there is justice in Puerto Rico.'"
Martínez has confessed to killing López in what is described as "gay panic". Police say Martínez confessed to stabbing, decapitating, dismembering and partially burning the teen’s body before dumping it roadside near Cayey.
On Thanksgiving Eve,
thousands marched through San Juan to hold a candlelight vigil for
slain teen. The crowd demanded authorities investigate the case as an
anti-gay hate crime. Similar vigils were held in New
York and Chicago.
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.
Pedro Julio Serrano of the National Lesbian & Gay Task Force, who was in Caguas when Martínez plead guilty , tells EDGE it brings some closure. "But those wounds will never heal. And we just have to work to ensure this does not happen again."
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. On the other hand, the conservative anti-gay governor has called for a constitutional marriage ban against same-sex marriage. Priorities, priorities.
Read Rod 2.0's complete Jorge Steven López Mercado coverage ...