Jury selection in the trial of the man accused of killing Angie Zapata, a transgender teenager beaten to death last summer in Greeley, starts Tuesday in Weld County. State anti-violence and gay-rights groups are using the occasion to raise awareness about hate crimes and spread the word about Zapata, an eighteen-year-old who loved her nieces and nephews and wanted to be a cosmetologist.
To that end, the groups launched a wide-ranging media campaign this week. Full-page print ads featuring members of Zapata's family under a banner reading "End Hate" ran in twenty-two Colorado newspapers Wednesday. But the ads didn't appear in northern Colorado papers because the groups didn't want to taint the jury pool, says Heather Draper, spokeswoman for The GLBT Community Center of Colorado.
Still, Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, who is prosecuting the case, is worried that the widespread publicity will do just that. As the Denver Post's Monte Whaley, who has covered the case since the beginning, reports today, Buck's spokeswoman said prosecutors are worried that jury selection could take even longer now since they'll have to find people who were not influenced by the ad.
In addition to the print ads, the groups created a website, www.AngieZapata.com, that features information about Zapata, what it means to be transgender and a briefing on the state's hate-crime law. It also features links to MySpace and Facebook pages encouraging visitors to "light a candle for Angie."
On Tuesday at 6 p.m., there will be a chance to light an actual candle for Zapata at a candelight vigil to be held at Lincoln Park in front of the courthouse in Greeley. The vigil is sponsored by several organizations, including the Lambda Community Center of Fort Collins.
The trial of the man accused of killing Zapata, 32-year-old Allen Andrade, will be the first time Colorado's hate-crime statute, which includes protections for transgender people, is used to prosecute a transgender murder case.
Andrade is accused of killing Zapata after he discovered she had been born male.
Authorities say the two met on an online dating site and went on a date in mid-July 2008. Zapata performed oral sex on Andrade but would not let him touch her. Andrade stayed over at Zapata's apartment that night but slept in a separate room.
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The next day, authorities say, Andrade saw some photos of Zapata in her apartment and became suspicious. He confronted her about her sexual identity that night and she responded, "I'm all woman." Andrade then grabbed Zapata's crotch. (Zapata had not had sexual reassignment surgery.) Authorities say Andrade was angered at what he found and beat her to death, first with his fists and then with a fire extinguisher.
Andrade's attorney, Annette Kundelius, has argued that it was a crime of passion. She says Zapata provoked Andrade when she smiled at him and said, "I'm all woman."
Zapata's family is expected to attend the nine-day trial, along with members of state gay-rights groups. Westword will be there, too; watch for updates on the Latest Word throughout the trial.