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Live blog: The Angie Zapata trial, April 21

Categories: Colorado Crimes

trbute to angie zapata.jpg

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 and April 20, 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.: With the jury gone for the day, the judge is hearing technical arguments from lawyers on both sides about which deliberation instructions to give the jury.

Andrade's defense attorneys argued that the jury should be allowed to consider whether Andrade was intoxicated during the offense, considering there's evidence that Andrade bought Budweiser beer the day Zapata was killed and empty bottles were found in her apartment. But prosecutors said there's no evidence that Andrade was drunk.

The judge agrees with the prosecution.

The judge also rules that the jury will be able to consider whether to convict Andrade of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide. First-degree murder carries a life sentence. The rest of the charges carry lesser sentences.

4:30 p.m.: The defense has rested its case after questioning a total of five witnesses.

Judge Kopcow is telling the jurors that he and the lawyers still have to finalize the instructions for jury deliberations. He tells the jurors to come back at 10 a.m. tomorrow. At that time, he says, he'll read the instructions to them. Then they'll hear closing statements from both sides.

Court is recessed for the day. Andrade is led out of the courtroom in handcuffs.

4:25 p.m.: Zapata's former roommate, J.J. Alejandro, is testifying. Martin is asking him about Zapata's appearance. Alejandro says when he first met Zapata, he thought Zapata was a female. He said he had to do a double-take when he found out Zapata was biologically male.

He said Zapata had no female clothes in the apartment. He said the apartment smelled like a woman's apartment. He said his girlfriend was initially jealous that he lived with Zapata. "He carried himself as a female, walked like a female, talked like a female," Alejandro said.

4:15 p.m.: Zapata's friend, Maricella Meza, has been called again to the stand. Defense attorney Kundelius asks her if she and Zapata went to bars together. Yes, she says. Kundelius asks if men would talk to Zapata and if it seemed like they wanted to "be with him." Yes, Meza says.

On cross examination, prosecutor Nieto asks Meza two questions: Does the bar you frequented with Zapata have a night dedicated to gay and transgender people? Yes, she says. Did you go with Zapata on those nights? Yes again.

4:10 p.m.: The lawyers, the judge and Andrade are back. David Hedstrom is on the stand. He works with Zapata's sister, Monica Murguia, at Wal-Mart. Defense attorney Bradley Martin is asking him about Zapata's appearance.

"Based on your observations of Justin, just by seeing Justin, just by looking at Justin, would you be able to tell that Justin was a man?" Martin asked.

"To answer your question, probably no," Hedstrom said.

Hedstrom said he helped clean out Zapata's apartment after she died. In her bedroom, he said he found mostly women's underwear and bras, and one pair of men's underwear.

Asked about Zapata's voice, Hedstrom says, "I would say it sounded like a male trying to project a female image."

4 p.m.: The judge has called the attorneys and Andrade into his chambers. He hasn't said for what. This has happened several times throughout the trial.

While the jury of four women and ten men waits, some chat with each other. Two appear to be laughing and nodding. Other jurors seem to be reading.

3:42 p.m.: Greeley Officer Robert Cash just testified that another witness in the case, Zapata's neighbor Marion Morales, told him that she thought Zapata was a female. That's the only question defense attorneys asked Cash. They seem to be trying to establish that everyone -- family, friends, neighbors -- agree that Zapata truly appeared female.

3:40 p.m.: Greeley Detective David Brantner just testified for the defense. He said he initially interviewed Monica Murguia, Zapata's oldest sister. He said she told him that she would often warn Zapata about going out with straight men because "you just couldn't tell he was a guy."

3:35 p.m.: Andrade just told the judge that he doesn't plan to testify.

3:15 p.m.: Once the jury had been dismissed for the break, Andrade's lawyers asked the judge to acquit him because, they say, the prosecution hasn't presented a strong enough case. They said the evidence against Andrade is "wholly circumstantial."

Prosecutors argued the opposite. They said Andrade's comments during jailhouse phone calls that "gay things must die" and that he'd kill a "pink shirt-wearing motherfucker" were unequivocally homophobic and show that Andrade is guilty of a bias-motivated crime.

The judge denied Andrade's lawyers request. The trial will continue.

3 p.m.: The prosecution has rested its case. The judge called for a twenty-minute break.

2:50 p.m.: The defense just admitted its first pieces of evidence: eleven photographs found in Zapata's apartment. They were turned over to the police by Zapata's sister, Monica Murguia.

The photos are Facebook-type snapshots. Most feature Zapata and female friends or relatives, their heads huddled close together. The people in the photos are almost always looking straight at the camera and smiling, making pouty faces or sticking their tongues out.

Andrade initially told police that he began to question Zapata's gender after seeing photos of her in her apartment. The jury hasn't heard that, since Andrade's confession was thrown out.

2:35 p.m.: Tharp is being cross-examined by defense attorney Kundelius. They're talking about the phone records. Kundelius is pointing out that some of the phone calls between Andrade and Zapata were less than thirty seconds long.

While asking Tharp a question, Kundelius slips up and refers to Zapata as "Angie" instead of "Justin," as she's been doing since the beginning of the trial. Similarly, prosecutors have slipped up and referred to Zapata as "Justin" instead of "Angie," as has been their practice.

2:20 p.m.: Tharp is reviewing phone communications between Andrade and Zapata in the days before her murder. The Saturday before she was killed, they texted 272 times, he says. On Monday, they called each other ten times. On Wednesday, the day she died, they texted 22 times and made one phone call.

2 p.m.: Zapata's cell phone still hasn't been found, Tharp says.

1:45 p.m.: Court is back in session, and Tharp is still on the stand, being questioned by the prosecution. He talked about reviewing the liquor store surveillance video that was shown to jurors earlier in the trial. Tharp said he recognized Andrade in the video. Andrade bought two forty-ounce bottles of Budweiser that day, Tharp said. Four empty forty-ounce bottles of Budweiser were found in Zapata's sink.

Tharp is now talking about recovering a small red fire extinguisher from the median of Highway 34 in Greeley on September 9. Prosecutors say Andrade beat Zapata with a fire extinguisher from her apartment. The extinguisher found on Highway 34 has been admitted into evidence.

12:05 p.m.: The court is taking a lunch break. The trial will resume at 1:30 p.m.

Noon: Tharp is talking about listening in on Andrade's jailhouse calls. Before the calls, Tharp says he didn't know who Felicia Mendoza was. After hearing Mendoza ask Andrade in a call whether she should get rid of some stuff he had given her, Tharp contacted Mendoza because he suspected she might destroy evidence in the case.

When Tharp visited Mendoza, she told him about the purses Andrade had given her, which she was referencing in the call. Tharp had Zapata's friends and family identify the purses as Zapata's.

11:45 a.m.: Tharp shows Zapata's photo to Andrade again. Again, he denies knowing her. Tharp asks Andrade if he uses MocoSpace. Andrade says he does, but that he's never communicated with Zapata.

Tharp pulls out Zapata's phone records and shows Andrade. He says the record shows 670 communications between Zapata's number and Andrade's number between July 12 and 16.

Tharp pulls out the photo again. "This is Justin Zapata. Justin Zapata lives in east Greeley. Justin Zapata passes himself off as a woman," Tharp says. He makes it sound like he's disgusted by that and talks about how Zapata showed her "cleavage" in photos posted online. "This guy is lying to a lot of people," Tharp says. "I have a real strong suspicion that this person is dead now because they weren't completely honest with somebody."

"Allen, look at me," Tharp says. "You're not a murderer, but we need to talk about this... You didn't plan this. This wasn't anything you had in mind."

The video ends. Prior to the trial, the judge threw out the rest of the confession, because he found that Andrade asked for a lawyer and Tharp didn't honor that request.

11:25 a.m.: Tharp tells Andrade the car is connected to a murder. He shows Andrade a photo of Zapata. Andrade says he doesn't know her. "I want you to be completely honest with me," Tharp says. Andrade says he hasn't been. Tharp asks him to clarify. Andrade says that he previously told Tharp he only put gas in the car once, but he really filled it up four times.

That's it? Tharp asks. Andrade says that's it. He says that just telling Tharp he stole the car is going to get him in trouble. "I've always been about if I did it, I'm going to tell you I did it. But that? What the fuck," Andrade said.

11:10 a.m.: The video shows Tharp and Andrade sitting in a small room at a circular, wooden table. Right away, Tharp reads Andrade his rights and Andrade signs them away and says he'll talk. Tharp says it won't take long. Andrade has his arms crossed and resting on the table. He's leaning forward and mumbling a bit. It's not easy to hear his answers.

Tharp is asking him about Zapata's sister's PT Cruiser. Andrade was arrested inside the car. Andrade admits he stole it but says he stole it from 88th and Pearl streets. He says he just saw the car and decided to look inside and then stole it to help him "get to and from."

11 a.m.: The prosecution is starting to play on the flat-screen TV a forty-minute DVD recording of Tharp's interview with Andrade.

10:50 a.m.: Tharp says he became involved in the case on July 17, the day Zapata's body was found. His main role was to comb through 2,000 pages of Zapata's cell-phone records.

Tharp's role in the case increased on July 30, when Andrade was arrested in Thornton. The lead investigator, Duff Knott, was on vacation that day and so Tharp was called out to interview Andrade that night.

10:38 a.m.: The witness has stepped down. Her testimony didn't seem crucial. More on that later. Greeley Detective Greg Tharp is now on the stand. He initially interviewed Andrade.

10:30 a.m.: Schwabe is done testifying. She didn't talk specifically about any conversations between Andrade and Zapata. She just explained how to read a Cricket cell-phone record.

The next witness is approaching the stand. Judge Marcelo Kopcow has banned the media from recording, either with audio or video, her testimony. He's also banned live blogging.

I'll be back after her testimony.

10:10 a.m.: Court is back in session. Janet Schwabe, who handles subpoenas for Cricket Communications, is on the stand. She's testifying about Zapata's cell-phone records from July 2008. She's explaining to the jury how to read the record being shown on the flat-screen TV.

9:50 a.m.: The court is taking an early fifteen-minute morning break. One of the TV monitors the jury uses to look at evidence, such as photos and documents, is on the fritz. The judge wants court staff to try to fix it during the break.

9:40 a.m.: Prosecutor Brandi Nieto has a few more questions for Mendoza. She asks Mendoza if she knew Andrade to own a vibrator. No, Mendoza says. Yesterday, a DNA specialist testified that Andrade's DNA -- and only Andrade's DNA -- was found on a vibrator in Zapata's apartment.

9:35 a.m.: It's the defense's turn now. Annette Kundelius, one of Andrade's attorneys, is questioning Mendoza. She asks whether he ever made derogatory statements toward homosexuals before he was arrested. No, Mendoza says. Kundelius asks whether Mendoza believes Andrade is bisexual. (Prosecutors say he was in a bisexual chat room on MocoSpace, the social networking site where he met Zapata.) Mendoza says he's straight.

9:25 a.m.: In the call, Andrade jokes about all the media attention he's getting. He says he'll tell his story for $55,000 and jokes with Mendoza that he'll send her $30 a week, or $300 if she's "with child," which makes her giggle.

Andrade jokes that he'll probably be on the news. "Ill be like, 'Hi Grandma! I love you!'" Andrade says. "Theyll be like, 'Awww, hes not a killer. He loves his grandma.'"

9:20 a.m.: Another jailhouse call. Andrade says he's a "super celebrity" in jail.

Mendoza and Andrade seem happy in this call. They keep giggling, talking about funny parts in movies and how Mendoza is going to go to Vegas. He teases her about drinking mojitos.

She says her phone is dying.

Andrade: "It's always dying. It's gay. Gay things need to die."

9 a.m.: Mendoza is back on the stand. The prosecution is playing another jailhouse call between Andrade and Mendoza. Mendoza still seems a bit angry at him. She says she "don't want to be with nobody for a long time." She also says she needs a "fresh start" and talks about how her friends and her mother don't approve of her talking to him.

Andrade talks a bit more about what happened: "I never knew I had that kind of rage. I knew I was a mad person, I knew I could get angry, but I never knew to that extent how I could react like that. Now I know."

Andrade asks Mendoza to send him a photo of her.

8:50 a.m.: Westword is back in the courtroom in Greeley. The trial was supposed to resume today at 8:30 a.m. with witness Felicia Mendoza, but Mendoza isn't here yet. The courtroom is the emptiest it's been since the beginning of the trial. A few members of Andrade's family are here, as well as Zapata's mother and representatives from several gay-rights groups. Members of the media are here, including the Denver Post, the Greeley Tribune and TruTV.


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