Mon, 04 Dec 2023

MEXICO CITY (CN) - Evidence suggests that Judge Jess Ociel Baena Saucedo, found dead in their home in Aguascalientes, Mexico, on Monday morning, was murdered by their partner, Dorian Herrera, who then killed himself, according to the state attorney general.

"It's a hardly credible hypothesis, but we are being careful to leave a record and preserve evidence," said Aguascalientes Attorney General Jess Figueroa Ortega in an interview with Radio Formula Tuesday morning. 

Latin America's first openly nonbinary judge, Baena was an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ+ rights both in their professional and public lives. They had received death threats, and members of Mexico's LGBTQ+ community have suspected their death to have resulted from a hate crime.  

Figueroa detailed a domestic dispute gone to a tragic extreme, one that started in an upstairs bedroom and left a trail of blood down to the ground floor. Herrera appeared to have cut Baena 20 times with a shaving razor, then cut his own throat next to Baena's body.

"We found footprints, left and right, that go downstairs, and we figure he went back upstairs for another blade, which he used to cut his own throat, causing the loss of his life," Figueroa said. "Both bodies were in the ground floor of the house, just centimeters from one another."

He was still waiting for the autopsy results to come through, but Figueroa said that the murder-suicide appeared to have taken place between 8:30 and 9 p.m. on Sunday evening. 

Baena's family and Mexico's LGBTQ+ community at large, however, do not believe the attorney general's version of events. At a memorial service for Baena and Herrera in Aguascalientes on Monday, the former's family members said that the pair's relationship was happy and stable. 

Furthermore, Victor Espindola, executive director of the nonprofit Movement for Equality in Mexico, said that members of Baena's family had spoken with the couple on Sunday evening and that they sounded happy and content after a trip to Oaxaca. 

"There is no evidence to support the attorney general's version, because there are no cameras in the house and there were no witnesses," said Espindola in a phone interview. "But he dares to declare that there was an argument in the bedroom.

"It would appear that they would like to close this case as quickly as possible, so we and several other organizations are calling on the federal attorney general's office to take the case, because what the Aguascalientes attorney general is declaring is not trustworthy," he said. 

A spokesperson for Mexico's federal attorney general's office told Courthouse News that the office has not taken up the case, nor does it currently have plans to do so.

Baena's death hit on a hot-button issue in Mexico's polarized political climate, and some have called out the way in which their story has been told in the country's media. Baena called themself a "magistrade," rather than the gendered "magistrado," which has led to discrepancies and arguments over how the incident is reported.

The media project Distintas Latitudes (Different Latitudes) denounced media outlets that put the word magistrade in quotation marks, which in Spanish denotes that the word is colloquial or unofficial. The organization also called out media outlets that gendered Baena by saying their body was found "muerto."

"People, their pronouns and their identities matter," the group said in a post to X, formerly Twitter. "And it's a ethical duty of the media to cover the news with respect, most of all in a case like that of Magistrade Ociel Baena."

Such treatment of Baena's gender by the media puts members of the LGBTQ+ community at risk, the group said. 

"Hate crimes and violence toward the LGBTI+ still exist and put their lives in danger," the organization said.

Source: Courthouse News Service

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