Why the Jury Had No Trouble Convicting Angie Zapata’s Murderer

When I heard yesterday that the jury in the trial of Allen Andrade, the man charged with murdering Angie Zapata, had reached a verdict in less than two hours, I was hopeful, since a quick verdict usually means that the prosecution’s evidence was so overwhelming that the jury saw no need for extended discussion. As I watched the judge read the verdicts convicting Andrade on all counts, my hope turned to elation. To the extent that our criminal justice system can actually deliver “justice,” the jury did everything that we could have hoped for. My elation, however, was, and will always be, tempered by the knowledge that Angie, a beautiful young trans woman, will never have the opportunity to live the life of peace and dignity that all of us, trans- and cisgender alike, deserve.

For the rest of the day, I surfed the Web to see what others were saying about this truly momentous event. There I found several people expressing concern that the jury’s verdicts may be vulnerable on appeal on the theory that the short duration of their deliberations indicates a failure to adequately consider the evidence. My experience as a criminal appeals attorney, however, tells me that there is no reason for such concern. Continue reading

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Angie Zapata’s Murderer is About to Cook His Own Goose, and It Couldn’t Happen to a Nicer Guy

On 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 head in 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. (Oh, the horrors!!) Of course, 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, which is to 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. Andrade’s trial began on Tuesday, April 14. 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 in use here 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.”

(“In Transgender Murder Trial, Key Question Looms: When Did Suspect Know?“, Greeley Tribune, April 16, 2009.) In my opinion, if Andrade pursues that defense through trial, he’s cooking his own goose, which is fine with me.

I am a criminal defense attorney. More specifically, I do criminal appeals, which means 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. In that time, I have read the transcripts of hundreds of jury trials, including several murder trials, so I have a pretty good idea of why attorneys, especially defense attorneys, do what they do and what juries look for when they decide to convict or acquit someone.

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. Kelli commented, if the prosecutor can make that claim stick, the defense is going to have a very difficult time. Why? Because 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 for me, 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. Andrade’s decision to testify (very few defendants do) 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. Let me tell you, 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, it looks like, 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!

(Cross-posted from my personal blog.)

eQualityGiving’s Omnibus Equality Bill Proposal

eQualityGiving is proposing a bill to correct the unequal treatment of LGBT people in all areas of federal law – employment, housing and public accommodations discrimination, the American with Disabilities Act, DOMA, DADT, etc. Read about (and download) it here. Whether or not a comprehensive bill like this is ever introduced or enacted, I think it serves a useful purpose in uniting the debate on the many ways in which we are treated unequally and helping to ensure that the changes we seek are consistent.

What do you think?

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FYI, here is eQualityGiving’s email announcing its proposal:

INTRODUCING THE EQUALITY & RELIGIOUS FREEDOM ACT

Dear Abigail,

What if we asked for legal equality all at once in one comprehensive omnibus bill?

THE BLUEPRINT FOR LGBT EQUALITY

What would a bill for total legal equality look like? We asked attorney Karen Doering, a very experienced and savvy civil rights attorney, to prepare such a bill. It was presented and discussed on our listserv, which includes many of the major donors to the movement and the executive directors of all the major LGBTQ organizations.

We believe now is the time to introduce an omnibus bill.

We have prepared a section of our website with all the information about the proposed bill:
www.eQualityGiving.org/Blueprint-for-LGBT-Equality

There you can read the actual text of the bill and read the answers to the frequently asked questions. There is also a section reviewing the status of the incremental bills currently proposed. You can also post your comments directly on the site.

WHAT THE OMNIBUS BILL COVERS

1. Employment
2. Housing
3. Public accommodation
4. Public facilities
5. Credit
6. Federally funded programs and activities
7. Education
8. Disability
9. Civil marriage
10. Hate crimes
11. Armed forces
12. Immigration

INCREMENTALISM vs. OMNIBUS BILL

Some people think that an omnibus bill is too unrealistic to pursue because Congress functions in a very complex way. But the country voted for a new leader who promised major changes to the way our government functions.

We have tried incrementalism at the federal level for LGBT equality for 35 years without any results. Now is the best time to capitalize on the energy of new leadership and propose what we think change looks like.

As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King said:

“A right delayed is a right denied.”

Asking for an omnibus equality bill does not mean that we need to pursue it at the expense of incremental bills. Both approaches can be used simultaneously, and we encourage this strategy.

An Omnibus bill has two major benefits:

> It points out in clear legal terms all the areas in which we are not treated equally under the law. If we ask for less, we will certainly get less.

> An Omnibus bill provides a standard to which incremental victories can be compared. We may discover, for example, that even the trans-inclusive ENDA introduced in March 2007 still did not provide the same level of protections in employment that other groups receive.

SAY WHAT YOU THINK

If you believe that, in addition to incremental bills, we should also push for an Omnibus Equality Bill, tell your member of Congress, talk to your friends, and write about it on the site. All the info about the bill is here:

www.eQualityGiving.org/Blueprint-for-LGBT-Equality

For many months we have been preparing this Omnibus Equality Bill. Join us to push for it, so that we can achieve LGBT legal equality faster.

Best regards,

Juan Ahonen-Jover, Ph.D.
Ken Ahonen-Jover, M.D.
Founders, eQualityGiving

P.S. Please forward this alert to others who could be interested.

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UPDATE – 3/24/09

Recently, there has been some discussion in the blogosphere about the impact of what some believe to be a narrower definition of “gender identity” in the federal Hate Crimes Bill (HR1592) from 2007, when compared to the definition of that term in the gender-inclusive ENDA (HR2015) from that same year. (The Hate Crimes Bill defined “gender identity” as “actual or perceived gender-related characteristics,” while the inclusive version of ENDA defines it to mean “the gender-related identity, appearance, or mannerisms or other gender-related characteristics of an individual, with or without regard to the individual’s designated sex at birth. To learn about this discussion, read Kathy Padilla’s recent posts on The Bilerico Project here and here.) In a comment I left on eQualityGiving’s website, I pointed out this difference and the risk of unnecessary litigation over whether the definitions are intended to have different meanings. In response, eQualityGiving has amended their Omnibus Bill to include the same definition in all its provisions, including hate crimes. The revised version of the bill, dated March 21, 2009, is available for download on eQualityGiving’s website.

In my original post, I failed to note one huge advantage eQualityGiving’s Omnibus Bill has over even the inclusive version of ENDA. Rather than enacting a separate statute with a broader exemption for religious organizations and other provisions that differ from existing civil rights law, eQualityGiving’s bill would simply amend Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (the federal law banning sex, race and other discrimination in employment) by adding “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to its terms. As Karen Doering, the drafter of the Omnibus Bill, explains on the FAQ page for the bill, this approach has substantial advantages over ENDA. Having worked as an investigator of discrimination claims under Title VII and being familiar with its terms and, especially, how it has been interpreted by the courts, I see this as a major improvement over current proposals.

I Have a Dream!

I originally posted this one year ago today on my old Yahoo 360 blog, while the wound from transgender people being excluded from ENDA by HRC and Barney Frank was very raw (it still is).

Today is the day in the United States that we celebrate the dream of equality and freedom that the Rev. Martin Luther, Jr. inspired in this country and, I hope, in the world. There is not much that any of us can add to his inspiring words, so I simply invite all of you to take 17 1/2 minutes of your day to listen to his words and to share his dream. (The video and the direct link to YouTube are below.) As you do so, you might want to note as I did, the following words, which seem so appropriate today as we struggle for recognition of equal rights for all transgender people against the argument that we need to wait our turn, that incrementalism is the path to freedom and justice for us:

“We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.” (Beginning @ 5:15 on the video below)

I followed up the next day with another post on Martin Luther King’s opposition to incrementalism and how he convinced LBJ that that was not the right approach:

As I noted yesterday, in his “I Have a Dream” speech, Martin Luther King, Jr. opposed applying “the tranquilizing drug of gradualism” to the civil rights struggle of that time.

More information about Dr. King’s opposition to that strategy came out last night on Bill Moyers’ Journal on PBS. During that program, Moyers recounted a previously unrevealed conversation between Dr. King and Lyndon Johnson that Moyers was privy to as a young presidential aide. (You can watch or read the transcript of this program here: http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/01182008/watch4.html.) Initially, LBJ tried to convince Dr. King to quell the demonstrations and other unrest that he and others were encouraging, in order to help Johnson convince the white supremacists in Congress to approve the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In keeping with his words at the Lincoln Memorial, King refused, saying that “his people had already waited too long. He talked about the murders and lynchings, the churches set on fire, children brutalized, the law defied, men and women humiliated, their lives exhausted, their hearts broken.” After listening to King, Johnson changed his mind and told King to “keep doing what you’re doing, and make it possible for me to do the right thing.” King did as asked, LBJ used his legendary arm-twisting skills in the Senate and one of the most important pieces of legislation of the last century, and one that today provides the only glimmer of hope for protection against employment discrimination for most trans women and men in the U.S., was passed.

So, Lyndon Johnson insisted on doing what was right at the time, rather than what he thought was practical or pragmatic given the resistance he faced. As civil rights pioneer and U.S. House of Representatives member John Lewis said on the floor of the House during the ENDA debate last November [2007], “It is always the right time to do the right thing.” Johnson, King and many others knew this in 1963 and 1964. Why is it that today so many people believe that this principal doesn’t apply to our own struggle for equal rights?

Today is still the time to do the right thing! Perhaps, with Barack Obama’s inauguration tomorrow as our next President, we will finally begin to achieve the civil rights, the human rights, that we all deserve.

(Once again, cross-posted from my personal blog.)

New regulations that could affect transgender people badly.

Hi Everyone,

I have a few very important things (I feel they are at least) to discuss. I would like to bring to your attention of a few new regulations that have been put forth that could have some very disturbing realities for transgender people (Heck, the whole LGBT community for that matter).  I’m on the mailing list of the National Center for Transgender Equality news and this week they sent out two emails alerting me of some new regulations that affect us.  (Both emails are currently available on NCTE’s news page.)  Here’s the first one: Continue reading

Transgender Day of Remembrance – 2008

Tomorrow, November 20, 2008, is the 10th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance. I’m not going to attempt to describe all the emotions that this day, and the reason it is needed, raise in me. Suffice it to say that it brings up the most profound sadness and doubt about the future, about whether it will ever be possible to create a world without hate. But I will not stop striving to create that world, because, without it, all hope is lost and I know that I cannot live without hope.

Please visit the websites below to find out more about the Transgender Day of Remembrance and the location of a vigil near you where you can join with others to honor those who have died because of who they are. Continue reading

“Pregnant Man” – Who Should Care?

Note: this blog was in part inspired by Helen G’s blog Pregnant man is pregnant which I did reply to. I did use that reply as a basis for this post. But as usual I had more to say. 🙂

I watched the 20/20 episode on Thomas Beatie tonight (thank goodness for DVR) and I have to comment on some of the things that were discussed. First off, I’m glad that the baby does have parents that love and care for this child. I am disturbed by the lack of caring and hatred shown in some of the messages sent to Thomas and his family, wishing death to him and his family. HOW DARE THEY? Why do people insist on judging what they themselves do not understand? At least do your research before you dare to put any judgment on ANYONE. Continue reading