What Does "Justice For Angie" Mean?
Update: I corrected mistakes/typos in the piece. Also, below the article, I added a YouTube of the CourtTV’s posting of the opening statement of the prosecutor. There is some commentary mixed in with the Deputy District Attorney Neito’s statement, but you can hear some of what I heard from the her last Thursday afternoon.
I have lots of blog diaries to write this weekend. I need to post on what happened at the trial Friday (and why it’s hard for me to post about it), about what my experience in Greeley, Colorado has been like, and a post entitled “Am I Deceptive Too?”
But, I’m going to make my first report this weekend about what are the possible sentences will be if Allen Ray Andrade is found guilty of a homicide directly related to Angie’s killing. And, talking about how Justice For Angie may be slightly different that justice for the Transgender (or Trans) Community, and the broader Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Community, as well as the Progressive and Civil Rights Communities.
Beth and I had coffee this morning at Café Woody’s. There, she graciously explained to what the prosecutor is aiming for, what the defense is aiming for, and the punishments would be for the for just the murder change. (There are other criminal complaints for this case, and except for the bias motivated crime complaint, these won’t be discussed in this piece.) Beth is an attorney — a former prosecutor herself — so she knows law. She thoroughly researched the possible homicide sentences, and briefed me on possible sentencing based upon what, if homicide charge, Allen Ray Andrade is convicted of.
To the right is a table of the charged offenses against Allen Ray
Zapata Andrade (correction for a horrible typo – 4/19/2009), with possible sentences. Since this isn’t a death penalty case, life without parole would be the highest sentence Andrade could receive. And, that sentence apparently would be the automatic sentence if he were convicted of that crime — there would apparently no discretion available to the Judge (Judge Marcelo Kopcow) regarding sentencing. First Degree Murder is premeditated murder in Colorado, is a First Class Felony (F1), and is the criminal conviction that the prosecution is aiming for.
Allen Ray Andrade could also be found guilty of Second Degree Murder, Felony Second Class (F2). If he were found guilty of this criminal count, the sentence range is 16 to 48 years. Colorado doesn’t have indeterminate sentencing for crimes, so he wouldn’t be sentenced to 16 to 48 years, he would be sentenced to 16 years, 48 years, or some number of years in between those two numbers. A conviction on this criminal count would mean that the jury believed that the murder wasn’t premeditated.
The other homicide conviction Andrade could be found guilty of, assuming he his found guilty of any criminal homicide, would be Second Degree Murder, Felony Third Class (F3). In most other states, this criminal offense would be referred to as Manslaughter. If he were found guilty of this criminal count, the sentence range is 10 to 32 years. Again, Colorado doesn’t have indeterminate sentencing for crimes, so he wouldn’t be sentenced to 10 to 32 years, he would be sentenced to 10 years, 32 years, or some number of years in between those two numbers. The defense has conceded that Andrade committed the killing, and an F3 criminal conviction that the
prosecution defense (correction 4/19/09) is aiming for, based on heat of passion (read in this case as “gay panic” or “trans panic”) and intoxication.
The elements that would be taken into account by a jury to change Second Degree Murder from an F2 into an F3 felony offence would include provocation, rape, heat of passion, and intoxication, for example. And, as stated in the paragraph above, the Andrade defense is claiming heat of passion and intoxication.
[Below the fold: On Colorado’s Habitual Offender enhancements, and what Angie’s family believes justice for Angie in a criminal sentence would entail.]Colorado has a “three strikes” kind of law on their books, as many states do — their law is referred to as their Habitual Offender law. Essentially, if a defendant is found guilty in trial of a felony and has had 2 prior felony convictions, he can be found by the trial judge to be an habitual offender. The prosecution has submitted 6 felonies to the court as ones that could be used by judge to find Allen Ray Andrade to be an habitual offender, so if Andrade is convicted of the F1, F2, or F3 offence with regards to Angie’s killing, it seems likely that he’ll be considered an habitual offender. If Andrade is found guilty of the highest F1 count, then the prosecutor isn’t going to push for the habitual offender enhancement: he already would be receiving a sentence of life without parole. However, if he’s found guilty of the F2 or F3, that enhancement would be significant — it doubles the maximum sentence.
So if Andrade were found guilty of the F2 felony by the jury, and if the court found he was an habitual offender, then the result would be that the judge would have no discretion in sentencing Andrade to 96 years in prison. In a similar manner, if Andrade were found guilty of the F2 felony by the jury, and if the court found he was an habitual offender, then the result would be that the judge would have no discretion in sentencing Andrade to 64 years in prison. As Andrade is 31 years old, it’s likely that if he were convicted of an F1, F2, or F3 homicide, and found to be an habitual offender, he would likely spend the rest of his natural life in prison.
If we’re looking for justice for Angie, having her admitted killer spend the rest of his natural life in prison would be justice for her and her family — and that’s accorning to Angie’s family. We need to remember this to help us keep perspective on any felony homicide conviction in this case before the Weld County Court.
If we’re looking for justice for broader community; however, then one of the other charges we haven’t talked about yet — the bias motivated charge — becomes important.
Count 2 of the charges is the Bias Motivates Crime count. This count reads as follows:
Between and including July 16, 2008 and July 17, 2008, Allen Ray Andrade, with intent to intimidate or harass [Angie’s male name] Zapata, also known as Angie Zapata, because of her actual or perceived race, color, religion, ancestry, or national origin , physical or mental disability, or sexual orientation, unlawfully, feloniously, and knowingly caused bodily injury to [Angie’s male name] Zapata, also known as Angie Zapata; in violation of section 18-9-121(2)(a), C.R.S.
Sexual orientation is defined as follows in the statute:
“Sexual orientation” means a person’s actual or perceived orientation toward heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, or transgender status.
Speaking as an individual who identifies as both transgender and transsexual, and knowing trans folks at the grass roots as I do, I don’t believe that the Trans Community will be satisfied with an F2 or F3 homicide conviction of the admitted killer of Angie Zapata alone. To be “acceptable,” an F2 or F3 homicide conviction would need to be accompanied with a conviction on the bias motivated crime count. Given the facts of this case, if Colorado is unsuccessful in convincing a jury that this was a bias motivated hate crime against transgender people, many trans people will be wondering what set of facts will convince a Colorado jury that a bias motivated crime against a trans person was committed against a trans person specifically because the killed person was trans.
And, because that mixed outcome would matter to trans people, their significant others, their friends, their families, and their allies, that outcome would matter to many people in the broader LGBT, Progressive, and Civil Rights communities.
In my mind, justice for Angie is the most important outcome we need to concerned about in this case, and not vengence for Angie. And, according to Angie’s family, justice justice for Angie means that admitted killer Allen Ray Andrade spend the rest of his natural life in prison. I’m with the family on this.
But that said, no one should be under the delusion that justice for Angie in this criminal case is necessarily the exact same thing as justice for trans people. If there isn’t a hate crime conviction in this case, the broader communities are going to have to rethink how hate crime laws are written so that “gay panic” and “trans panic” strategies put forward by defense attornys don’t nulify the intent of the hate crime laws. And, the intent of these hate crime laws being the legal tools to address how people in the LGBT community feel fear — and feel terrorized — by hate crimes against their brothers and sisters within their community. We often fear becoming hate crime victims ourselves, especially when we hear of hate crimes being commited against others in our community; when we don’t see those perceived as committing hate crimes being convicted of the hate crimes they’re charged with.