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Trial Begins in Transgender Teen Murder Case That Could Expand "Hate Crime" Definition

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By Javier Lavagnino, Esq. on April 16, 2009 2:44 PM

The Colorado trial of Allen Andrade for the brutal July 2008 murder of transgender woman Justin "Angie" Zapata begins today, according to CNN. The case received widespread coverage back when it occured, and has become a focal symbol of the transgender community's efforts to be protected within hate crime legislation across the nation.

CNN gave some background for the case, indicating that authorities believe Andrade and Zapata met online via a social networking site when Zapata was 18 years old and Andrade 32. They ended up arranging to meet in person and got intimate, but Andrade later saw photos that made him question Zapata's gender. After a confrontation with Zapata, Andrade ended up beating her with his fists, and then fatally with a fire extinguisher.

As noted in the news story, this case has called attention to the issue of how states treat crimes motivated by an anti-transgender bias. Right now only "11 states and the District of Columbia recognize transgender people in their anti-hate crime laws", and members and supporters of the transgender community would like that number to grow. Andrade himself actually does face a charge of murder plus a "bias-motivated" crime, which may represent a legal first. The legal director for the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center of Colorado, Mindy Barton told CNN:

"We believe this is the first case of any hate crime law being applied in an anti-transgender murder case...A vicious attack such as this, with the evidence of overkill and excessive brutality, leaves the whole transgender community feeling afraid to live their daily lives

For the year 2007, according to the FBI, 2,025 law enforcement agencies reported 7,624 hate crime incidents involving 9,006 offenses. Of the incidents involving a single bias, just under 17 percent (nearly 1300) resulted from a bias against sexual orientation (a further breakdown did not include transgender as a category).

Jury selection was completed this morning and opening statements were slated for the afternoon. We'll keep you posted as the case moves forward.

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