Thursday, April 23, 2009

Angie Zapata verdict

The verdict is in - 1st degree murder plus the hate crime conviction - a clean sweep but bittersweet because it won't bring back the life of the young victim.

I caught a few newsfeeds. They're very sketchy. Everyone was wondering how the jury would react. Now we know and the real news story is the jury - not the killer, and not even the victim. Rather, it's how public attitudes have changed because twelve ordinary people said "no" to the 'trans-panic' defense.

The trial went quickly, just four days, and it was largely prosecution. The defense presented a few witnesses, trying to poke little holes in the prosecution's case but to no avail. The perp had confessed to killing the victim. The only issue was why, and for that Allen Ray Adrade's only defense was trans-panic. It had worked before for Gwen Araujo's killers. Perhaps he really thought it would work again, this time for him.

It didn't.

The jury deliberated for just two hours, perhaps less, and the judge pronounced sentence immediately. The alacrity of it all was surreal.

So where do we go from here? Well, I'd like to know more about the jury. Who were these people, eight men and four women in a conservative and largely rural Colorado county, who only took two hours to deliberate before they returned their "guilty on all counts" verdict? I'd like to know. What went on in the jury room? It's important.

I also want to know if they believed anything Andrade said. His story conflicted with the prosecution's account (that at least 36 hours before he killed Angie he knew she was ts.) Unfortunately, every news media outlet reported his version as the facts - that she performed oral sex on him the night before he killed her. Why did they do that? Who knows if that actually happened? It was just his word and now we know that 12 people, a jury of his peers, read him as a lying sack of s**t. Will news accounts continue to print and air his version?

Colorado is very visible on the trannie radar screen. Two years ago we were reading about the flap when a young ts child started attending school as a girl. I later met her and her parents - wonderful people. The mother told me the hateful parent who had made the stink slithered off in to the shadows, where he belongs.

Then Angie Zapata was murdered.

Now we need to attack the 'trans-panic' defense. It's a form of the insanity defense. There are states that significantly delimit it. I read that in Nevada a judge must first rule on whether the insanity defense can be argued to the jury. Ok, let's do that for the trans-panic defense too - no automatic right to present just anything to the jury, no matter how over-the-top, because the mob is inherently susceptible to demagogic appeals to bigotry. Let the accused first convince a judge that it's a good-faith claim. It's constitutional.

Unless someone commissions a study can we ever know for sure what has happened over the course of years to change public attitudes? Would the twelve people on Allan Andrade's jury have convicted Gwen Araujo's killers of first-degree murder? The fact pattern wasn't all that different. How about Fred Martinez? Or any of the others unlucky enough to be listed on the Remembering Our Dead website? Can we finally say that these people did not die in vain?

Has anyone noticed what's missing? There aren't any voices criticizing the prosecution, the verdict or the sentence. I'm not hearing anyone arguing that the victim deserved what she got. No one is criticizing the prosecution for consistently referring to the victim as "she." Maybe I'm not listening but I don't hear anyone singling-out trans people for non-inciusion in a federal hate crime bill, that it would be granting "special rights" to us in particular.

People's attitudes toward transsexuals can be influenced. The evidence is clear - when people get to know us as real people many are dissuaded from their knee-jerk prejudices. Hopefully the fact that a Colorado jury heard the evidence and soundly rejected an appeal to their baser instincts is significant. The jury fled the courthouse after the verdict and sentence and there are no reports that any of them spoke to the press but hopefully they will speak to their families, their friends and their neighbors about what they saw and heard while in the jury box - and what they felt.

This case may be our lever to accelerate our successful efforts to influence and bring the masses into the light and turn them into allies. We can do it.

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