Who was Francisca Marquinez? What we can garner from the evidence is that she was choked to death in October 2015. Beyond that, we know little about who she was.
The overwhelming theme of the messages I found through the online condolences book her family set up for her tell the story of a kind and caring woman. Marquinez was “a fun, outgoing and genuine person with positive energy.” She had an “infectious laugh and a beautiful spirit.” She worked for many years in the Human Resources sector and liked to dance merengue and salsa. Her niece Carla says her aunt was “a woman whose happiness shone through.” Yet no news outlet discussed the 60-year-old woman’s personality or life. The media was far more interested in talking about her murderer’s penis.
Marquinez was murdered by her boyfriend, 65-year-old Richard Henry Patterson, in Margate, Florida. Patterson was charged with second-degree murder in October 2015, but was found not guilty in May 2017. The ruling happened almost a year ago and yet there is still far more information available online about Patterson’s genitals than about the woman whose life he took.
The attorney for the accused argued that Marquinez had “accidentally” choked on Patterson’s penis during consensual oral sex. But in all likelihood, this murder was far more gruesome and far less titillating than it was portrayed. The case was referred to in the media as the “penis defense murder trial.” Instead of referring to an “asphyxiation defense” or the “suffocation defense,” the Sun Sentinel called it an “oral-sex defense,” thereby providing legitimacy to an implausible claim.
For Patterson’s defense to be plausible, Marquinez would have had to not realize her death was imminent. Associate Broward Medical Examiner Iouri Boiko, who conducted Marquinez’ autopsy, said that although it was not possible to confirm a cause of death due to the decomposition of the body when it was found by police, it is impossible for it to have been an accidental oral sex scenario. Marquinez would have had to remain absolutely passive while her airways were blocked for more than 30 seconds, until she lost consciousness. In reality, Boiko says, she would have kicked, bitten, or done something else to prevent the blocking of her airway, he explained in court. “It’s the normal reaction.” Even after those fatal 30 seconds, Patterson would have had to keep his erect penis blocking the throat of the unconscious woman for two to three minutes. Only then, after this ongoing blockage of her airway, would Marquinez have finally died.
Patterson waited several days before informing anyone of Marquinez’ death, allowing time for her body to decompose beyond the point where an autopsy could reveal causes of death. Eventually, he called his ex-girlfriend (not the police or an ambulance). During the trial, the jury was presented with a recording in which his ex-girlfriend asked, “Were you arguing?” Patterson replied, “Holly, it doesn’t matter what happened. I’m not telling you what happened because you don’t need to know. Period.” He texted his daughter, saying, “Your dad did something really bad last night,” and that he was “so, so sorry.” He also told his ex and daughter, “I choked Francisca (not, “she choked”). Because Patterson didn’t contact the police, it was his ex-girlfriend who decided to contact a lawyer to defend him in the inevitable trial that would ensue. All reasonable evidence incriminating Patterson was considered less relevant than the star of the trial: his penis.
Due to Patterson’s claim that the size of his penis was a factor in Marquinez’ death, he asked the court to view it as evidence. Assistant state attorney Peter Sapak considered this, asking: “Do we do it in the back? Do we do it in open court? How is the defendant going to be erect when the jury views it? Because a flaccid penis, whether it be a picture or the jury actually seeing it, is completely irrelevant. It needs to be erect.” Patterson’s defense said they were willing to provide a picture of his clients penis next to a tape measure and a frontal picture of Patterson’s naked body.
Patterson’s penis — not the fact that he killed a woman — was the big news story. The media framed the case in a way that would ensure the public read it as funny and titillating. “Massive penis man who claimed his girlfriend choked to death during oral sex is dramatically found NOT GUILTY of murder,” read one headline. Another read, “Murder suspect tries big-penis defense — and it might work.” This narrative — that a woman had consented to her own death — was believed by the media because it confirmed what we’re constantly told: that women enjoy and seek out the violence perpetrated against us, that sex and violence are interchangeable, and that no femicide is so cruel or harrowing that it is above being considered “consensual sex.”
To imagine that Francisca Marquinez likely fought for her life, as a man — someone she once loved — used his penis as a murder weapon is heartbreaking. Those 30 seconds when she was aware that she was going to die must have been terrifying. Why would a jury acquit a man of such a gruesome femicide? The answer to this question lies in porn culture.
“The last thing these two adults did together was oral sex. He thought that’s how she died,” Patterson’s lawyer said during the trial. “The humiliation of having to tell people was just too much for him.” In other words, a man who, during his trial, focused on trying to show his genitals to a jury, and used his alleged “big penis” as a defense against a murder charge, wanted this jury to believe he was too shy to call an ambulance or the police while Marquinez lay dying. And they believed him.
Tragically, this is not the first time that a jury has found it plausible for women to “consent” to being murdered in the name of sex.
In 2015, a 49-year-old man said that his 91-year-old neighbour had suffocated during a “sex game” in Porto, Portugal. His semen was found on her body and it was revealed in the autopsy that the woman had died from asphyxia. The woman’s body had “extensive genital injuries,” but the local newspaper called the woman’s death “a tragic accident.”
In 2011, Cindy Gladue, an Indigenous mother of three daughters, was murdered by a john who stabbed her in her vaginal canal, leaving a perforation that was more than 11 centimeters long. She did not die immediately. Gladue was placed in a bathtub where she bled to death after hours of agony. Her murderer, Bradley Barton, was found not guilty of first-degree murder in a trial wherein Gladue’s disjointed pelvis was physically shown to the jury. The jury preferred to believe that the fact she was a prostituted woman somehow justified her death and that being stabbed in the vagina could be “an accident” following “consensual sex.”
During the trial, it was revealed that Barton’s search history included pornography that sexualized violence against women. The judge described finding pornography depicting “gaping vaginas and extreme penetration and torture,” but this evidence was not permitted in court because it was obtained unlawfully by the police. During trial, Barton’s defense argued that even though Gladue must have gone through “an awful final hour of her life,” the jury should not let that gruesome factor “poison” them against Barton. The jury agreed.
QotD: “Cyntoia Brown, Trafficking Victim Serving Life Sentence for Murder, Will Get Clemency Hearing”
Cyntoia Brown, a Nashville woman who is serving a life sentence for killing a man who picked her up for sex while she was being trafficked as a teenager, will receive a hearing that could lead to her release, officials said on Thursday.
The clemency hearing, set for May 23, will be the first for Ms. Brown, 30, since she was sentenced nearly 13 years ago, said Melissa McDonald, a spokeswoman for the state Board of Probation and Parole.
The board, appointed by the governor, will hear Ms. Brown’s petition and decide whether to recommend that she be released from the Tennessee Prison for Women, where she is serving a life sentence for fatally shooting Johnny Allen, 43, in 2004. “It is up to the governor to decide the process after we make our recommendation,” Ms. McDonald said. “The governor may act on it or choose not to act.”
When she was 16, Ms. Brown, who had run away from her adopted family, lived in a motel with a pimp known as “Kut Throat” who raped and abused her while forcing her to become a prostitute, Charles Bone, her lawyer, said last year.
“While Cyntoia’s clemency application is still in process, we will not be making any further public comments,” Mr. Bone said on Thursday.
Mr. Allen picked her up and drove her to his home, where Ms. Brown shot him. She said she saw him reaching under his bed and thought he was getting a gun, according to court documents. She took money and two guns and fled.
Ms. Brown was tried as an adult in 2006. A jury rejected her claim of self-defense, finding her guilty of first-degree murder and aggravated robbery. Her case has attracted the public support of celebrities including Rihanna, LeBron James, Snoop Dogg, and Kim Kardashian West.
The announcement of the clemency hearing was first reported by The Tennessean. It comes two days after an appeals court agreed to hear oral arguments in the case on June 14.
Ms. Brown’s supporters have described her as a model inmate. While in prison, she took classes from Lipscomb University, a private Christian college in Nashville, and earned an associate degree.
But Jeff Burks, who prosecuted Ms. Brown and is now an assistant district attorney in Madison, Ga., has contended that she shouldn’t be considered a victim of trafficking, and that she tried to recruit someone to return to Mr. Allen’s apartment after killing him to steal from it.
“What should the law be as to a 16-year-old who does this? I don’t weigh in on that,” he said. “But the facts of the case, I have a strong position on.”
State Representative Jeremy Faison, a Republican from Nashville who has been pushing for Ms. Brown’s release, said Thursday that it would have been more difficult for her to be tried as an adult under the trafficking laws and laws governing juvenile offenders that are now in place in Tennessee.
Mr. Faison, who introduced a failed bill in 2016 that would have required reviews of life sentences for juveniles after they serve 15 years in prison, said he regularly speaks with Ms. Brown.
“Did she kill the guy? Absolutely. Did we have proof of why she killed him? No, we don’t,” he said. “She was the victim of a man who picked her up when she was 16.”
Tennessee’s governor, Bill Haslam, a Republican, is in his final year in office. He has not yet granted any clemency petitions, The Tennessean reported.
“The governor thoughtfully reviews any clemency application and recommendation from the Board of Parole,” said Jennifer Donnals, a spokeswoman for Governor Haslam.
Mr. Faison said he has also asked the governor to consider a pardon.
“I would like to tell you that I think the odds are good,” he said. But “it is hard to get government to admit they are wrong.”