Live blog: A first-degree murder verdict in the Angie Zapata trial, April 22
Editor's note: Melanie Asmar is live blogging the Greeley trial of Allen Andrade, the man charged with murdering Angie Zapata, a transgender teen. Look for updates here -- and click these links to catch up on Asmar's coverage of the proceedings on April 16, April 17, April 20 and April 21, as well as a summary of the evidence from last week. To catch up with the day's proceedings, read from the bottom up.
5 p.m.: The press conference just finished. Zapata's family appeared first. Her brother, Gonzalo Zapata, spoke into the microphone as her sisters and mother huddled behind him. His mother held onto his arm as he spoke, his voice shaky.
"Angie was my sister. She was a member of our family. We loved her very much and we will miss her every day. Every day and every night, my mom has to deal with the great pain that she saw one of her babies being buried.
"Angie was brave. She had guts, had courage and was beautiful, was fun and was loving.
"Life was sometimes difficult for her. We learned along with her, to learn she was born a girl with a body that was wrong for her.
"This week, we are deeply saddened and angry as we witness graphic details about the last few minutes of my sister's life. A big brother is supposed to protect ... "
(At this point, Gonzalo Zapata broke down and started crying. His mother gripped him tighter.)
"I got it," he said. "A big brother's supposed to protect his little sister. It breaks my heart to think there was nothing I could do to protect my little sister.
"Only a monster can look at a beautiful 18-year-old and beat her to death. This monster not only hit my sister but continued to beat her head in over and over and over and over again until her head was crushed in and then left her there to die.
"He'll never understand how angry we are at him and how much he has hurt us.
"We will always love you, Angie. And we will always miss you, hija. Thank you."
4:22 p.m.: Everyone has left the courtroom.
Members of Zapata's family, friends and representatives from gay-rights groups have gathered for a press conference in a big, carpeted room down the hall from the courtroom. There are several TV cameras pointing at a couple of microphones, which are set up in the middle of the room. Print reporters from the Associated Press, the New York Times and the Denver Post are here, as are reporters from public radio, TruTV and several Colorado television stations.
4:16 p.m.: Court is recessed. District Attorney Ken Buck is now in the courtroom. Andrade's family is led out of the courtroom by a bailiff. Everyone else is told to remain seated.
4:14 p.m.: Judge Kopcow just sentenced Andrade to life without parole, as is mandatory in Colorado. He also made a short statement: "I will say, Mr. Andrade, I hope as you're spending the remaining part of your natural life in the department of corrections... that you every day think about the violence and the brutality that you caused on this fellow human being. And the pain you have caused not only your family, but the family of Angie Zapata."
4:11 p.m.: Defense attorney Kundelius also made a short statement: "I think it's important everybody know Mr. Andrade is not some kind of monster, as has somewhat been portrayed." Kundelius said he has a family; his sisters and his mother have been at the trial every day. "He does have a lot of people who are about him, and he cares about them as well. I'd just like everybody to know that," she said.
Andrade declined to make a statement.
4:09 p.m.: Andrade's sister, Christina Cruz, also addressed the court: "First of all, I would just like to say that nobody wanted to be in this position.... My brother has a family as well. I'm very sorry. It was a tragic thing that happened. But it's not something we signed up for.... We're not supporting the outcome but we do support him as my brother. We love him very much. That's all."
4:07 p.m.: Zapata's mother, Maria Zapata, just addressed the court: "Me speaking as a mom, it hurts so bad. I feel so alone. If it wasn't for the rest of my children, I don't know. I just feel so alone sometimes. Mr. Andrade, he has the opportunity to have his family, to talk, to see them, to write to them. He didn't leave me that opportunity with my baby. He took my baby away from me. Such a selfish act. The one thing he can never ever take away is the love and the memories that me and my children will have with my baby. My beautiful, beautiful baby."
4 p.m.: Andrade is being led into the courtroom. He's dressed in orange prison garb and his hands are shackled. He shuffles as he walks; his legs may be shackled too. He glances quickly at his family but again, his gaze doesn't linger. He's sitting between his lawyers.
3:55 p.m.: Everyone is back in the courtroom. Some members of Zapata's family are smiling. People are chatting loudly. One member of Andrade's family is clutching tissues.
3:45 p.m.: More than a dozen of Zapata's family and friends went out for a smoke break on the courthouse steps and the media followed. As they smoked and hugged each other, cameramen crowded around and held boom mikes above their heads. They didn't speak to the media but didn't seem to mind as their pictures were taken. Overhead, workmen on scaffolding worked to renovate the courthouse. The sound of a buzzsaw drowned out almost everything else.
3:25 p.m.: Adam Bass, spokesman for GLAAD, just made an announcement about the post-sentencing press conference. Zapata's mother, Maria Zapata, will address the judge during sentencing. Immediately following sentencing, Zapata's brother, Gonzo Zapata, will make a statement. The family will not take questions, he said.
After Gonzo Zapata speaks, District Attorney Ken Buck will speak. Then Kelly Costello, advocacy director for the Colorado Anti-Violence Program, will speak, as will Mindy Barton, legal director for the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Community Center of Colorado.
3:15 p.m.: Zapata's family is expected to make a statement to the media after the sentencing. The district attorneys who prosecuted the case will also make a statement.
For now, Zapata's family is gathered in a wing of the courthouse, away from the media. Andrade's family was escorted out of the courthouse by a bailiff. They have not commented throughout the trial and they did not comment after the verdict was read.
Everyone has left the courtroom. The media is gathered in the lobby. There are five TV cameras huddled in a semi-circle facing the metal detector. Several reporters are interviewing a woman named Susan Matthews who's a member of the Gender Identity Center. She says she's pleased with the verdict. Moments earlier, as the jury walked out of the courtroom, Matthews raised her arm high and gave them a thumbs up. A bailiff told her to stop.
3:05 p.m.: The judge says the court will be recessed until 4 p.m. At that time, Andrade will be sentenced for first-degree murder. First-degree murder carries a mandatory life sentence.
Update: The reason the sentencing has been delayed until 4 p.m. is so that prosecutors can explain to Zapata's family what happens next and give them some time to absorb the verdict.
3:03 p.m.: The verdicts: Guilty of first-degree murder. Guilty of a bias-motivated crime. Guilty of motor vehicle theft. Guilty of identity theft.
When the judge read the verdict of first-degree murder, there was an audible sob from Andrade's family. Zapata's family is crying. But the courtroom is mostly silent, as the judge requested. He warned he wouldn't tolerate outbursts.
3 p.m.: The jurors just entered the courtroom and sat down. None of them are looking at Andrade. The jury foreman, a man in his forties, is handing the verdict to a court staffer.
2:55 p.m.: Andrade is led into the courtroom and his handcuffs are removed. He sits down between his lawyers. He glances at his family seated three rows back but his gaze doesn't linger.
2:45 p.m.: The jury has reached a verdict after just two hours of deliberating. Everyone is back in the courtroom. It's completely full. As usual, Andrade's family and friends sit on one side and Zapata's sit on the other. Andrade is not yet in the courtroom. Neither are the jurors or the judge. All of the lawyers are here. Zapata's family has already been wiping away tears.
12:40 p.m.: The two alternate jurors were excused. Both were men, one who appeared to be in his twenties and one who appeared to be in his forties. Eight men and four women remain.
The jury just left the courtroom to start deliberating.
12:30 p.m.: Closing statements are over. The judge is giving the jury the last instruction: to go into the jury room, elect a foreperson and deliberate.
12:25 p.m..: Prosecutor Miller is now presenting his rebuttal. He's challenging the defense's assertion that Zapata was deceptive. There's no evidence that she deceived anybody else, he says. "Is she supposed to wear a sign that says 'Hey, I'm transgender'?" he says.
12:15 p.m..: Kundelius is emphasizing that Andrade is straight. Just because he went to a bisexual chat room on MocoSpace.com doesn't mean he's bisexual or gay, she says. He could have been going there to meet women since bisexual women are also attracted to men.
Furthermore, Kundelius says, this crime has nothing to do with sexual orientation. "This crime was not committed because of Justin Zapata's transgender status," she says. "It's because Justin Zapata lied and Mr. Andrade was deceived."
12:10 p.m..: Kundelius is arguing for criminally negligent homicide, the least serious offense that Andrade could be found guilty of. "He didn't have the chance to think about what was happening," she says. "He just grabbed for something and he hit Justin Zapata."
She says Andrade drove around for two weeks in the car he stole from Zapata's apartment because he wanted to get caught. "He didn't do anything to try to run from this," Kundelius says.
11:55 a.m.: Kundelius says Zapata took steps to keep her biological sex from Andrade. They slept in separate rooms because Zapata was hiding something, she says. Zapata stopped at a friend's house before going home the night of July 16 -- the night Zapata was killed -- even though Andrade was waiting for her at her apartment because Zapata wanted to keep her secret for as long as possible. "The more time they spent together, the more time Mr. Andrade would have to figure out who Justin really was," Kundelius says.
11:50 a.m.: Kundelius: Why would Andrade spend nearly three days with Zapata if he knew that Zapata was transgender and he hated gay and transgender people?
11:45 a.m.: Kundelius says it hasn't been proven that the fire extinguisher admitted into evidence -- or any fire extinguisher -- was used to kill Zapata. There was no blood or DNA found on it, she says. Something else doesn't add up, she says: Zapata only had injuries to her head and nowhere else. "That's evidence this happened really quickly," Kundelius says.
To convict Andrade, jurors would have to "jump to a lot of conclusions," she says.
11:40 a.m.: Kundelius is saying that circumstantial evidence shows there was sexual contact between Zapata and Andrade. She points to Andrade's reference to Zapata's "boobs" in his jailhouse calls. She talks about how Andrade's DNA was found on a pink vibrator in Zapata's apartment. But she says it doesn't make sense that Andrade used the vibrator alone.
The fact that there was no semen on anal or oral swabs taken from Zapata's body doesn't prove anything, she says. "Use your common sense," she says to jurors. "There can be a lot of ways to have sexual contact that don't result in semen or hair being on somebody's body."
11:30 a.m.: Kundelius is giving her closing statement. She starts off by repeating what Andrade said in his jail calls: that he lost control that night. "That's all the evidence you have. What he says," Kundelius says.
She talks about how Zapata deceived a lot of people, including Andrade. "Everything about him was like a woman. That's what Mr. Andrade believed," she says.
Andrade isn't even guilty of manslaughter, Kundelius says. He didn't plan the murder; she says there was "nothing" going through his head when he killed Zapata.
11:20 a.m.: Miller ended his argument with this: "No person deserves to die like this. Find him guilty of all counts." The jury asked for a five-minute break. Kundelius will begin her closing statement when they return.
11:15 a.m.: Miller says Andrade isn't reasonable, that he had an unreasonable hatred: "A reasonable person would have left if they were so repulsed by the person they were with."
11:05 a.m.: Miller talks about how Andrade seemed to feel guilty after the murder: cleaning the apartment, stealing Zapata's cell phone and deleting his account on the social networking site where they met. But, Miller says, Andrade hasn't shown any remorse. He references the jail calls and joking statements Andrade made, such as "gay things need to die."
If Andrade killed her in the heat of passion, Miller says, why doesn't he sound passionate about it on the phone? If he killed her in the heat of passion, Miller says, why didn't any neighbors hear passionate screaming coming from Zapata's apartment during the murder? It wasn't a passionate killing, Miller says. "It was an all-out blitz attack," he says.
10:55 a.m.: Miller is arguing that Andrade knew Zapata was transgender for a while before he killed her. That proves he didn't kill her in the heat of passion, Miller says. "All evidence indicates Angie was upfront with who she was," Miller says: She took Andrade to court, where a clerk called her case as, "City of Greeley versus Justin Zapata." Everyone says you could tell that Zapata was biologically male. Sure, Zapata hung out at bars and talked to guys, Miller says, but she hung out there on gay, bisexual and transgender night.
10:45 a.m.: Prosecutor Robb Miller is giving his closing statement. He starts off talking about Zapata, how she was born a boy but felt like a girl. How she played with Barbies and not toy trucks. How she asked to be called "Angie," not "Justin."
He grabs the fire extinguisher found in the median of a Greeley road two months after Zapata's death. It's still wrapped in an evidence bag. He slams it into his hand at least three times and asks the jurors to imagine what it must have been like, "the cold steel forcefully hitting your skull time after time." He argues that Andrade is guilty of first-degree murder and nothing less.
"Hitting someone time after time in the forehead with a fire extinguisher shows exactly what your intent is," Miller said.
10:40 a.m.: The jury instructions refer to Zapata like this: "Justin Zapata (also known as Angie Zapata)." Throughout the trial, prosecutors have referred to Zapata as "Angie." Defense attorneys have referred to Zapata as "Justin." Witnesses have largely called Zapata "Angie."
10:35 a.m.: The jurors will have several options if they find Andrade guilty. For example, they could find him guilty of first-degree murder, which means he intentionally murdered Zapata and his decision to kill her was "made after the exercise of reflection and judgment." Or they could find him guilty of second-degree murder, which means he was aware he was murdering Zapata but didn't plan it.
If they find Andrade guilty of second-degree murder, they must make another decision: whether Andrade was acting "upon a sudden heat of passion." That means Andrade was provoked by Zapata to kill her, and her provocation "was sufficient to excite an irresistable passion in a reasonable person." The jury's decision on whether Andrade acted in the heat of passion must be unanimous.
10:25 a.m.: The jurors are seated. Judge Marcelo Kopcow is reviewing with them an inch-thick packet of paper that explains 24 instructions they must follow while they deliberate. Some of the instructions are generic, such as the definition of "beyond a reasonable doubt." Others seem specific to the case, such as the definition of a bias-motivated crime.
Andrade has been charged with a bias-motivated crime. He's also been charged with first-degree murder, aggravated motor vehicle theft for allegedly stealing Zapata's sister's car and identity theft for allegedly stealing Zapata's sister's credit card, which was found in the car.
10:10 a.m.: Closing statements were expected to start at 10 a.m. They haven't started yet. The courtroom is full. Andrade's family and friends sit on one side, while Zapata's family and friends sit on the other. Representatives from several gay- and transgender-rights groups are here too. Bailiffs are telling people to squeeze into the blond-wood benches so everyone can have a seat.
Andrade is seated between his defense attorneys, Annette Kundelius and Bradley Martin. He's wearing a brownish button-down shirt and appears to have the same demeanor as always. The judge just came into the courtroom and sat down. The jury will be brought in shortly.
Get the Weekly Newsletter
Our weekly feature stories, movie reviews, calendar picks and more - minus the newsprint and sent directly to your inbox.