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Puerto Rico murder suspect is psychotic, psychiatrist testifies
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Puerto Rico murder suspect is psychotic, psychiatrist testifies

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The confessed killer of Gay teenager Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado is mentally ill and not fit to stand trial for the crime, a court-appointed psychiatrist said.

Psychiatrist Rafael Cabrera interviewed suspect Juan Martinez Matos and recommended he be kept in a forensic psychiatric hospital for further evaluation.

Martínez is charged with first-degree murder in the brutal killing of 19-year-old Lopez in Puerto Rico. Lopez was decapitated, dismembered, and his remains were partially burned on November 13.

Martinez was arrested three days later and confessed to the crime. He has also been charged with other counts, including weapons violations.

Cabrera acknowledged during a preliminary court hearing that he is not certain whether the symptoms of psychosis claimed by defendant Martinez are real, feigned or exaggerated.

Under questioning by prosecutor Yaritza Carrasquillo, the psychiatrist agreed that the only facts Martinez says he cannot clearly remember are essentially those of the night of the crime.

At the time he was apprehended, Martinez claimed he had picked up Lopez believing he was a female prostitute. He told police that when he discovered his error he became enraged, that in the ensuing altercation Lopez tried to stab him, and that he then killed Lopez in self-defense.

Judge Camila Jusino ordered Martinez to undergo another psychiatric evaluation on January 7, and set a new hearing on his fitness to face criminal proceedings for January 13.

Gay rights activist and NGLTF spokesperson Pedro Julio Serrano was critical of the court's ruling.

"Although full justice can never be done, as Jorge Steven is no longer with us, the process of prosecuting the confessed murderer in one of the most heinous crimes committed in the history of our country has been delayed again," Serrano said in a statement.

Puerto Rican LGBT activists expressed disappointment that the suspect was not immediately charged with a hate crime, saying authorities in Puerto Rico have never invoked a law covering crimes based on sexual orientation.

A 2002 hate crime law in Puerto Rico has never been used in any prosecutions involving sexual orientation or gender identity despite calls to use it more aggressively. A suspect convicted of a hate crime as part of another offense automatically faces the maximum penalty for the underlying crime. For murder, that would be life in prison.

The FBI has offered assistance to Puerto Rican authorities under the new Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act, which added real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity to federal hate crimes protections.

So far Puerto Rican law enforcement has not accepted the FBI's offer. The FBI continues to monitor the investigation.

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