In a historic ruling, Gabriel David Marino has been sentenced to life in prison for the 2015 murder of transgender activist Diana Sacayán. This sentencing marks the first time Argentina’s justice system invoked hate crime laws for trans victims.
Marino was found guilty today of murder “aggravated by gender hatred and gender violence” by Judges Adolfo Calvete, Ivana Bloch, and Julio César Báez, who agreed with the prosecution and plaintiffs that the murder had been motivated by Sacayán’s gender identity. Prosecutors and plaintiffs had sought a life sentence for Marino.
Prosecutor Ariel Yapur called the trial “a test case for violence against trans women,” and that “there was no reasonable doubt” that Marino killed the activist in “circumstances that made it possible to state that it was connected to her identity as a trans woman.” Hate crime laws allow judges to increase the length of prison sentences for crimes if the courts can show that the victims were discriminated against because of their identity.
Sacayán, a prominent trans rights activist, was stabbed 13 times in her Buenos Aires apartment in October 2015. Her body was found with her legs and arms bound. Marino was known to Sacayán and an unidentified and at-large accomplice is also implicated in the murder. Both were filmed arriving and leaving from Sacayán’s apartment at times that coincided with her death.
In addition to the prosecution, the case was argued by Sacayán’s family and the INADI anti-discrimination institute as plaintiffs. “As plaintiffs, the family and fiends of Diana, we expect a historic sentence, that the court recognize that this was a hate crime due to her trans identity and that the judiciary rule for the time in history about the deaths of transgender people and recognize this as a travesticidio (murder of a transgender person for reasons of identity),” said the family before the sentence was announced.
Activists celebrated the ruling and the use of hate crime rules. “There is a before and after of these sentences, and it will give us the strength to continue to fight not only against travesticidios but also for the implementation of the transgender labor quota, which was Diana’s legacy,” Daniela Ruiz, an activist and theater director to Télam.
“This is a historic ruling because every travesticidio is a message of fear and hatred for the LGBTI community, which can only be countered in one way: when justice is served,” said Greta Penna, a leader of 100% Diversidad y Derechos.
Emiliano Litardo of Abosex said that he hoped that the ruling “would reverberate through the court system” and that it would signal that “once and for all people begin to think about violence against transgender persons in a more complex way.”
Sacayán was president of the International Association of Lesbians, Gays and Bisexual (ILGA) and a leading figure in the passing of a labor quota law for transgender people in the province of Buenos Aires.
Marino’s public defender denied that his client was guilty and called for his acquittal.
The judges will release their arguments for their ruling on July 6.