Guest Blogger

Angie Zapata's Murderer is About to Cook His Own Goose

Filed By Guest Blogger | April 16, 2009 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Allen Andrade, Angie Zapata, Colorado, Greeley, transgender

Editors' Note: Guest blogger Abigail Jensen is a trans woman and attorney in Prescott, Arizona. She is also President of QsquaredYouth, a member of the boards of directors of the Prescott Area Women's Shelter and TransMentors International, and a general rabble rouser on issues of equal rights for transgender, as well as, lesbian, gay and bisexual, people.

Abigail-Jensen.jpgOn July 17, 2008, Angie Zapata, a happy and beautiful transgender woman who was only 18 and living on her own for the first time, was brutally murdered in Greeley, Colorado by Allen Andrade because she was trans. Her murderer, of course, claims that he beat her in the head with a fire extinguisher until she was unconscious, and then went back and did it again to make sure she was dead when he noticed her trying to sit up, in a fit of "uncontrollable" rage when he discovered that she had a penis. Andrade's trial began on Tuesday, April 14.

I am a criminal defense attorney. More specifically, I do criminal appeals; I represent people like Andrade after they have been convicted, either by a jury or by pleading guilty. My job is to look over the shoulders of the police, the judges, the prosecutors, and the defense attorneys to make sure that everyone follows the rules, imperfect as they are, that have been adopted in this country to help ensure a fair trial. I've been doing this work since 1997. I have read the transcripts of hundreds of jury trials, including several murder trials, so I have a pretty good idea of why defense attorneys do what they do and what juries look for when they decide to convict or acquit someone.

There is good reason to believe that Andrade already knew that Angie was trans, but his defense attorney has no choice but to go with the best chance she's got for defending him -- blame Angie for her own murder.

The Weld County District Attorney charged Andrade with first degree premeditated murder, a hate crime for murdering Angie because she was trans (the first such prosecution in the nation), auto theft for stealing her car, and identity theft for stealing and using her credit card.

Yesterday, the prospective jurors got to hear for the first time what the case is about when the attorneys presented their "mini-opening" statements. Mini-opening statements are apparently relatively new in Colorado. They've been used in Arizona for several years and are intended to give the jurors a basic idea of what the case is about, so that they can be questioned about whether the nature of the crime will make it difficult for them to be fair and impartial.

The prosecutor told the jurors that Andrade had known that Angie was trans for some time and that he murdered her in a premeditated attack. Andrade's defense attorney, however, said that he felt "deceived" when he found out that Angie was trans.

...and he reacted. He reacted, he lost control, he was outside of himself.

"Everything happened so fast, it was over before it started. He couldn't control it. Those are the words you're going to hear from Mr. Andrade. He never knew he had that kind of rage."

If Andrade pursues that defense through trial, he's cooking his own goose, which is fine with me.

On her blog this morning, Kelli Anne Busey quoted from another article about the mini-opening statements in Andrade's trial, noting that the prosecutor told the jurors that, contrary to Andrade's claim, there would be no evidence that he had sexual contact with Angie before the murder. If the prosecutor can make that claim stick, the defense is going to have a very difficult time. Why?

Without proof that Andrade had sex (of whatever kind) with Angie without knowing she was trans, his "trans panic" defense falls apart, and his crime is revealed as the bald-faced hate crime that it really is.

In other words, Andrade didn't kill Angie because he was deceived into having sex with a "man," but simply because he hates trans people and believes, as he told his sister in a recorded phone call from the jail, that "gay things need to die."

What's even more significant, however, is the statement by Andrade's attorney that he is going to testify: "Everything happened so fast, it was over before it started. He couldn't control it. Those are the words you're going to hear from Mr. Andrade." Of course, that's the only way Andrade can hope to prove his alleged "trans panic" defense (who else can prove what was going through his head as he bludgeoned Angie to death?) and thus convince the jury to reduce his conviction to 2nd degree murder or manslaughter, but it's a very risky move. Very few defendants do this.

Andrade's decision to testify means that the prosecutor gets to cross-examine him in excruciating detail about when he first knew or suspected that Angie was trans, which could well cook his goose right there. In addition, the prosecutor will get to hammer home the evidence that, after first beating her unconscious, Andrade went back and made sure Angie was dead after she tried to sit up. That makes it first degree (premeditated) murder without question, regardless of how outraged he may have been when he first hit her.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, is what happens if Andrade contradicts any of the things he told the police, including the things he said during the parts of his confession that the judge threw out. For example, what if Andrade tells the jury that Angie was dead after he beat her the first time but told the police he went back a second time to finish the job because he saw her moving?

If that happens, the judge will allow the prosecutor to bring back in everything that he previously threw out, including any audio or video tape of his police interview, to prove that Andrade is lying to save his ass. When a jury hears a defendant say one thing to them face-to-face from the witness stand, and then gets to hear (and, if the interview was videotaped, see) him say the opposite to the police right after he was arrested and before he had a chance to plan out his story, it is absolutely devastating and virtually guarantees a conviction.

From where I sit, unless something changes very drastically over the course of his trial, Andrade is about to cook his own goose. It couldn't happen to a nicer guy!

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Ain't that the truth! Thanks for this great post, Abigail. I'll be at Phoenix Pride, Saturday.

Unless the defending attorney thinks she can get a win on appeal on procedural grounds... what the heck is she thinking allowing her client to take the stand!
He's already shown he's at best, unstable.

Oh well.

Some other issues:
Provocation would be barred as a defence if the assailant deliberately sought the provocation out - say by committing a sexual assault and grabbing the victim's crotch to confirm his suspicions. People v. Valdez (183 P.3d 720, Colo.App. 2008)

If the assailant covered the body with a blanket before the second assault, forensic evidence would show two different attacks at different times.

The element of deliberation requires that the decision to commit the act is made after the exercise of reflection and judgment concerning the act; however, the length of time required for deliberation need not be long. People v. District Court, 779 P.2d 385 (Colo. 1989).
Two separate attacks - long enough.

Finally, the prosecution could opt for Felony Murder - murder in the course of a robbery - as an alternate if the element of pre-meditation isn't proven.

Murder after deliberation and felony murder are not separate and independent offenses, but only ways in which criminal liability for first degree murder may be charged and prosecuted. People v. Lowe, 660 P.2d 1261 (Colo. 1983); People v. Brown, 731 P.2d 763 (Colo. App. 1986).
The taking of the car (at the least) was a felony.
Sequence of events is irrelevant as long as sufficient evidence is produced to show that a felony was committed by defendant and that a death occurred during the commission of that felony. People v. Braxton, 807 P.2d 1214 (Colo. App. 1990).
Felony Murder is murder in the first degree too, so it doesn't matter if pre-meditation isn't proved.

Having seen the comments on the Greeley Tribune and Denver Post though, jury selection is crucial. Some commenters have said that the killer should walk, not just from the murder charge, but all the rest, to "send a message".

IANAL but looking up that caselaw might be instructive.

Felony murder is a possible theory in this case, but the State never charged Angie's murder in that way, and it is probably too late, for constitutional reasons, for them to change their theory this late in the game. I also agree that "provocation" induced by the defendant isn't sufficient to lower this from Class 2, to Class 3, second degree murder, but that isn't even an issue if the jury finds that Andrade committed the murder "after deliberation" (i.e., after premeditation), which I predict they will. In Arizona, premeditation can be "as instantaneous as two successive thoughts of the mind," so Andrade's decision to go back a second time and make sure Angie was dead is more than enough to convict him of first degree murder.

Great post, Abby. It's always good to get a criminal attorney's perspective.

Zoe--I, too, wonder at the wisdom of the defense attorney letting this idiot take the stand...

Having Andrade testify may not be a smart move, but it appears to be the only move that his attorneys have, as desperate as it may be.

Also, there's virtually no chance that that decision will result in reversal of any conviction on appeal. It is the defense attorney's job to make strategic decisions like which witnesses to call, but it is always the defendant's sole decision whether to testify. As long as his attorneys advise him of the risks of testifying vs. the risks of not testifying, if Andrade decides to testify and cooks his own goose, he has no one to blame but himself.

this story, and too many like it, breaks my heart.

thank you for writing it.

christophe | April 17, 2009 9:56 AM

After reading that they first met on the internet, I would think they could find some evidence there to be able to prove he knew she was trans?????

The prosecutor told the jury yesterday that there will be evidence that Angie and Andrade exchanged 700 text and/or email messages before they met in person. There will also be evidence that, 36 hours before he murdered her, Andrade went to court with Angie for a hearing on a traffic ticket that was issued in her male name and during which she was referred to by male pronouns. The defense's only response to this is to claim that no one can prove that Andrade was the guy with Angie in court that day. However, even if no one can positively identify him as that guy, the time frame is right (the hearing was during the time that Andrade was staying with Angie) and there is no evidence that it was somebody else, so the jury will be well within its proper function to decide that it was Andrade, that he, therefore, knew that Andrade was trans and that his "trans panic" defense is a bunch of bull.

I'll say it again, this guy's goin' down!

This story hurts my soul. So long our people have been accused of their own demise. When will the madness stop? Only when Christianity's teachings is seen as what it blame!

This is the best news yet in this sad case. It is so good to here that he is going down.

We will continue to exist within a swirling vortex of insanity for as long a religion exists.


he saw her get up and then went back to kill her for real? that's grotesque.

Andrade just announced he will not testify, but his goose is still cooked.