gay panic

Will the Matthew Shepard Act Play a Part In Jorge Mercado’s Murder?


Juan Antonio Martínez Matos, the 26-year-old alleged murderer of Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado (pictured, right), believed he was cruising for female prostitutes in Caguas, Puerto Rico. And when he found out Mercado was a man? That’s when he killed — and burned, and dismembered, and decapitated — him.

“After being rejected by a few women, [Matos] saw Jorge dressed as a woman and asked him to go with him to the house,” reads a translated police report. “Apparently at the house, the suspect found out that Lopez was a man, after Lopez made sexual advances, and as a result of the rage, Matos did what he did.” Ah, the wonderful “gay panic” defense.


As yet, it’s unclear whether prosecutors will charge Matos (pictured, left) with a hate crime, although the FBI is now involved. Which means we might see the first exercising of October’s Matthew Shepard Act, which added sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected classes covered by the 1969 Federal Hate Crimes Law. So while federal funds won’t be made available to local law enforcement until next year, victims (and their families) of LGBT-oriented hate crimes can “seek compensatory and punitive damages as well as injunctive and declaratory relief.”