Mexico: Family of dead non-binary magistrate dispute police murder theory

Jesús Ociel Baena tribute

Investigators have determined that the death of Mexico’s first out non-binary magistrate was a murder.

Jesús Ociel Baena was found dead on Monday (13 November), alongside another individual – who local media identified as their partner, Dorian Daniel Nieves – in the central city of Aguascalientes.

Officials have confirmed that a razor blade was found at the scene and there was no evidence of a third person, per BBC News.

Police now suspect that Nieves may have killed Baena and then themselves. However, Baena’s family has disputed this theory.

Jesús Ociel Baena holding a Pride fan in their hand.
Non-binary Mexican magistrate Jesús Ociel Baena was found dead on Monday. Police now suspect it was a murder. (Instagram)

Chief prosecutor Jesús Figueroa has said that Baena was found with 20 wounds in their body, including one on their neck.

According to forensic evidence, police say Nieves wielded the murder weapon. However, Figueroa says, investigations are still ongoing.

Commenting on the police hypothesis, Baena’s father Juan Baena said it “would be a shame to let this justice system make a judgment that is not correct and that the majority do not believe it.”

Similarly, rights organisations aren’t so sure about this theory, and are calling for police to investigate whether Baena and Nieves’ deaths were a hate crime, noting that Baena had received death threats.

Baena had been a strong LGBTQ+ activist and trailblazer throughout Mexico and Latin America for their unwavering dedication to equality.

Their historic appointment to the state electoral court in October last year was heralded as a breakthrough for Mexico, a country that is known for its transphobia.

Earlier this year, Baena was among the first group of people to be issued a gender-neutral passport.

Activists gather at a candlelit vigil for Jesús Ociel Baena.
Activists gathered at candlelit vigils across several cities in Mexico for Jesús Ociel Baena. (Getty Images)

Speaking at one of many candlelight vigils held for Baena, Alejandro Brito, the director of the LGBTQ+ rights group Letra S said in a plea to authorities: “They were a person who received many hate messages, and even threats of violence and death, and you can’t ignore that in these investigations.

“They were breaking through the invisible barriers that closed in the non-binary community.”

Activists regularly accuse Mexican authorities of brushing aside murders of LGBTQ+ people

He added: “If this was a crime motivated by prejudice, these kinds of crimes always have the intention of sending a message.

“The message is an intimidation, it’s to say: ‘This is what could happen to you if you make your identities public’.”

ctivists gather at a candlelit vigil for Jesús Ociel Baena.
Activists dispute police’s theory that the non-binary magistrate was murdered by their partner. (Getty Images)

Despite Mexico being statistically and legally accepting of LGB people, transgender and non-binary individuals are still routinely discriminated against and abused.

Many rights afforded to same-sex couples and LGB people, including housing and employment discrimination protections, aren’t extended to trans and non-binary people.

Additionally, hate crimes against LGBTQ+ people remain high, with Letra S documenting at least 117 people killed in 2019.

Speaking to the Associated Press in Mexico City, another vigil attendee described Baena was “the most relevant figure in today’s fight for human rights for the LGBTQ+ community.

“We want [police] to continue to investigate this case, and not just say it was a ‘crime of passion.’”

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