April 17, 2009
Posted: 09:14 AM ET
GREELEY, Colorado–The murder trial of Allen Andrade, underway in Greeley, Colorado, is being watched closely across the country. Andrade is accused of bludgeoning to death Angie Zapata, a transgender female, last July.
Justin "Angie" Zapata was killed by a man she met over the Internet during the summer of 2008.
Since the defense concedes Andrade is the killer, the question at trial is what level of homicide it is: first-degree murder or some lesser degree. The defense says Andrade killed Zapata in rage after learning that the woman he was with was biologically male. The prosecution says Andrade knew for at least 36 hours before the murder that Zapata was born a male, which supports their theory of a premeditated murder—not an uncontrollable rage.
Andrade is charged not only with murder, but with a bias-motivated crime. Though bias-motivated crime is a lower felony than murder, the charge is significant for this is believed to be one of the first cases to charge a hate crime where the victim is a transgender person.
Angie Zapata, born Justin, started living as a female about three years before she died. She and Andrade met on a social networking website and, after some days of online communications, they decided to meet in person. On July 14, 2008, Zapata drove more than 50 miles to pick up Andrade and bring him to her Greeley, CO apartment. They spent the next few days together.
In opening statements Thursday, the jury of 10 men and four women learned from prosecutor Brandi Nieto that Andrade accompanied Zapata to Greeley municipal court on July 15 to answer a traffic ticket. The ticket was issued in the name of Justin Zapata. That, according to the State, is when Andrade knew, if he didn’t know it earlier, that Zapata was biologically a male. Although the jury has yet to hear the coroner’s estimate of time of death, it appears that Zapata was killed in the early hours of July 17—long after the court appearance.
In his opening statements, defense attorney Bradley Martin emphasized that this is not a case about lifestyle and right or wrong; that it’s a case about Zapata’s deceit. The hate crimes statute protects transgender people. Yet, it appears the defense wants to use that protected class status to justify a conviction of something less than first-degree murder.
Nine witnesses have testified so far, including the first officers and paramedic on the scene, neighbors who saw Zapata the night before her murder, and the officers who arrested Andrade two weeks later. The trial is expected to last through next week.
Stay tuned to In Session as I bring you all the latest details from inside the courtroom.
–Beth Karas, In Session correspondent
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