HNBA Supports Application of the Matthew Shepard to Thwart Hate Crimes

February 4, 2010

Washington, DC — The Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA) calls upon the local authorities in Puerto Rico and United States federal authorities to continue to investigate and ultimately prosecute the murder of Jorge Steven Lopez Martinez under the recently enacted Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (“the Matthew Shepard Act”).  The Matthew Shepard Act permits the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate and prosecute hate crimes in which the victim is targeted because of sexual orientation, race, religion, national origin, gender, gender identity or disability.  In late 2009, Mr. Lopez, a gay Puerto Rican teenager, was murdered, decapitated and dismembered, and his body was partially burned.  The crime, which occurred in Puerto Rico, appears to have been motivated because of the victim’s sexual orientation.  The alleged perpetrator, Juan Martinez Matos, was recently found competent to stand trial, but has not yet been charged with committing a hate crime under the Matthew Shepard Act.

The HNBA is a committed advocate for civil rights and equal protection under the law for the Latino community, and believes that the Matthew Shepard Act should be used to prosecute offenders engaging in hate crimes in all states, possessions, and territories of the United States, including Puerto Rico.  Application of the Matthew Shepard Act will deter those from committing crimes of hate based, among other things, upon a victim’s ethnicity or  his or her sexual orientation.  The HNBA encourages law enforcement officials throughout our nation to put the Matthew Shepard Act to work to protect the rights of all the disenfranchised members of our society.