Angie Zapata’s killer found guilty.

// 23 April 2009

Allen Andrade was last night found guilty of both first degree murder and bias motivation (hate crime) in his killing of the 18 year old Angie Zapata last summer. He has been sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.

The prosecution successfully convinced the jury that Andrade’s hatred of transgendered and gay people (Andrade’s transphobia meaning he read Angie as a gay man) lead him to murder her in an unprovoked attack of shocking brutality.

While nothing can even begin to compensate for Angie’s death, it is a least a little heartening that the jury did not buy into the crude and offensive tactics employed by Andrade’s defence lawyers. As Jess highlighted earlier in the week, the defence used a classic “trans panic” line of argument to prove that Angie had wilfully deceived Andrade into believing that she was a woman and that on finding out that she had a penis, he was sent into such a fit of rage that he could not stop himself beating her head in with his fists and a fire extinguisher. Aside from the fact that this so-called “crime of passion” defence is always nothing more than an unacceptable excuse for violence predicated on hatred and intolerance, the defence’s line of argument here was based on two disgustingly transphobic assumptions:

1) That Angie was “really a man”

and

2) That discovering someone is transgendered is enough to cause any reasonable person to recoil in horror and commit an act of violence, in this case murder.

Repeatedly referring to Angie using male pronouns and her male birth name, the defence attempted to build up a body of evidence to show that this person they claimed was a man had deceived Andrade and the world into believing that “he” was a woman. Witnesses were asked to testify that they had seen Angie wearing women’s clothes, that she never left the house without make-up, and so on. Apparently this should have been enough to convince the jury that Andrade had a legitimate reason to behave as he did on discovering that Angie’s birth sex was male, meaning he should have been given a lesser sentence.

Happily, the jury rejected that line in just two hours’ deliberation. Andrade’s murderous and hateful behaviour can only be read as in anyway understandable, his actions as being in any way the result of provocation, if one believes that Angie was a man, if one refuses to recognise that transgendered people exist. And then only if you’re a complete homophobic scumbag that believes one has a right to expect certain sexual characteristics in others and the right to kick off in the most violent way imaginable when those expectations are not met.

Angie wasn’t a man. In the words of her family:

She was brave, she had guts, she had courage, and she was beautiful, fun and loving. She was our little sister. […] It is clear: Angie was our sister, an aunt and a daughter. Life was sometimes difficult for her, and we learned along with her to understand she was born a girl with a body that was wrong for her. Above all else, she was honest. It took such courage to be who she was. She was strong, there was no reason to believe my sister was anything but strong and honest with everyone.

I just hope that the coverage of her murder and the recognition that this was a crime motivated by a hatred of transgendered people – not a crime of “passion”, not provocation, not deception, not a real-life version of the bullshit ‘oh my god look she’s got a penis, she’s really a man and I was about to have sex with her’ trope that is often the only way trans women are represented in popular culture – will go some way towards challenging the transphobia ingrained in almost all cissexual people, and that, in the words of brownfemipower on twitter last night, this guilty verdict will ‘be a start of a *movement*’ committed to bringing an end to transphobic violence and hatred wherever it rears its ugly head.

Comments From You

Steph // Posted 23 April 2009 at 12:28 pm

I was following the twitter coverage of this last night as the verdict was due, and was so relieved that at least some sort of justice has been found for Angie Zapata.

I’m very glad that the hateful ‘trans panic’ defence collapsed too, as the defence were trying every avenue of the ‘trans woman decieves man’ route to try and defend Andrade’s actions.

Ruth // Posted 23 April 2009 at 7:46 pm

Nice to know that justice sometimes IS done. Some of us had almost given up hope (had some bad experiences here)…

Westerly // Posted 24 April 2009 at 1:32 am

Yes! Finally justice, though I agree that it can’t even begin to compensate. But hopefully this will be one step in dismantling the disgusting ‘trans panic’ defense.

Ellie // Posted 24 April 2009 at 10:47 am

I’m so glad they found him guilty.

Talitha // Posted 24 April 2009 at 12:07 pm

I agree with the other comments, though I don’t think ‘hate’ murder should be considered more of a crime than any other kind of murder.

Sam // Posted 24 April 2009 at 2:35 pm

Talitha,

Hate murder should be considered a more serious crime than other murders. As well as the murder, hate crime includes the threat of violence to others. In the words of the NY state legislature:

‘Crimes motivated by invidious hatred toward particular groups not only harm individual victims but send a powerful message of intolerance and discrimination to all members of the group to which the victim belongs.’

(From http://criminaljustice.state.ny.us/legalservices/ch107_hate_crimes_2000.htm)

If society punishes both violence and the threat of violence, it makes sense to punish hate crimes more harshly.

RadFemHedonist // Posted 24 April 2009 at 4:27 pm

I’m glad that at least the murderer is going to jail and that a message about the unacceptability of the “trans panic” defense is being sent out, of course it doesn’t bring back Angie Zapata.

Shea // Posted 24 April 2009 at 8:30 pm

Sam- isn’t murder the ultimate hate crime anyway? The net result is the same- you deprive a person of their life, against their will and do so intentionally. It seems rather stupid to classify one murder as a “hate” crime and another as plain old murder. I’m sure the victims of each crime suffered just as much, were equally terrified and would have wanted to live just as much as the other.

What other motivation can there be for any murder but “invidious hatred”?

davka // Posted 25 April 2009 at 5:13 am

i hope the defense team burns in hell. what kind of people could defend the admitted murderer of a teenaged girl? she looks like my neice. god help her family.

Shea // Posted 25 April 2009 at 9:34 pm

@ davka- we really wouldn’t have much of a justice system if they didn’t.

The murderer of Angie Zapata didn’t admit to it- thats why he needed a defence team. There is also the small matter of a presumption of innocence, until proven guilty. Why should the defence team burn in hell? They didn’t kill Angie, and although I dislike the tactics they used to defend her killer (i.e the Trans panic) they gave their client the best defence and legal counsel they could, and can now rest knowing he was guilty and judged guilty by a jury despite the good defence they gave him. I hope he rots in hell, he deserves it. But if lawyers only represented the innocent- our legal systems would rapidly fall apart.

Sam // Posted 29 April 2009 at 5:38 pm

Shea,

Apologies for the delayed response; I was away.

I imagine that your confusion stems from the misleading nomenclature. ‘Hate crime’ is not quite accurate, as the crime is being punished more harshly not for its motivation, but for its consequences. If you’ll re-read my original response, you’ll note that my defence of extra punishment is that, as well as harming the obvious victim, such crimes also injure minority communities, members of which subsequently fear similar attacks.

I hope that you see this and have the opportunity to reply. If so, I would appreciate it if you could refrain from referring to me or my opinions as “rather stupid”. Kthxbye.

Shea // Posted 29 April 2009 at 9:16 pm

Sam – my apologies, I didn’t mean to infer either that you or the point you were making were “stupid”. Rather that to me in the specific instance of murder (rather than assault or GBH) the naming of one murder as a “hate” murder and another as simply murder, seemed to me like splitting hairs.

I understand and take your point of the consequences of the murder being felt more keenly in certain instances, such as the tragic case of Angie Zapata, where you have an already marginalised and discriminated against group. Where the murder was obviously motivated by a cold hatred of a person for their essential characteristics.

But my point was, how do we distinguish between a “hate” murder and murder? And further why would we diminish the significance of such an atrocious act by doing so? If a battered woman is killed by her husband, is that not a “hate” murder (although I would readily classify it as such) because she is not the member of a minority group?

I mean, excepting euthanasia, is anyone ever killed for any other reason than because they were hated?

Perhaps this is not the post to be discussing this, I don’t wish to derail the thread, or in any way diminish the severity and tragedy of what happened to Zapata. I am simply curious.

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