First Transgender Hate Crime Trial Opens in Zapata Murder Case
Greeley - A landmark trial begins this week in Weld County, Colo. It is believed to be the first murder prosecution under hate-crime laws that involves a transgender victim. The case is last year's brutal killing of Angie Zapata, an 18-year-old transgender woman who was attacked in her Greeley apartment. The suspect in the case is charged with a number of crimes, including first-degree murder and a "bias-motivated" or hate crime.
Colorado was the first state in the nation to pass a hate-crime law, in 1988. Mindy Barton, legal director at the GLBT Community Center of Colorado, says it was amended in 2005 to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
"To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time that these charges have been filed in an anti-transgender-specific case."
With more than 130 violent crimes against GLBTQ Coloradans reported in 2008 alone, Barton says she hopes the trial will raise awareness of the state's hate-crime law.
"There is a gap in making sure that these types of laws are being enforced. A lot of people may not even realize that these protections are in place to help them."
Barton says there is an important difference between hate crimes and other crimes.
"The intention here, behind the perpetrator's actions, is to create fear amongst a target group of people, and that's the hard part that we need to face."
The trial of suspect Allen Andrade begins Tuesday in Greeley, Colo.
An estimated 21 murders of transgender Americans occurred in 2008. Congress could consider the Matthew Shepard Act this year, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to federal hate-crime law. President Obama says he supports the bill. It passed both houses of Congress in 2007, but was dropped when President Bush threatened a veto.