15 April 2009

Heat of Passion Case In Zapata Trial

The defendant in the Angie Zapata murder trial appears likely to argue (based on comments during jury selection) that he did kill Zapata but only did so in the heat of passion, rather than intentionally and deliberately. A heat of passion defense is not grounds for an acquittal under the applicable criminal law.

The defense is likely making this limited case primarily because enough of the defendant's confession will come into evidence, and this confession is supported by enough physical evidence (e.g. the defendant was in possession of Zapata's car) to corroborate it, to make a more ambitious case unlikely to succeed.

An open request to the jury from the defense that it ignore the law, moreover, would probably produce a mistrial charged to the defense (and hence not subject to double jeopardy limitations), although the defense will likely do what it can to make a sympathic case that could move the jury to ignore the law without being expressly asked to do so.

Pre-trial proceedings indicate that the Defendant is a habitual offender and that the prosecution is not seeking the death penalty in the case. Thus, the jury may acquit (in what would amount to a jury nullification of the applicable law, but is not reviewable on appeal), convict of murder in the heat of passion (a 40 year to life sentence for a habitual offender) or convict of first degree murder (a life without possibility of parole sentence).

The defendant, Allen Andrade, is 32 years old, so he will be an old man when he leaves prison, if he ever leaves prison, unless the jury disregards the law. The trial is scheduled to begin tomorrow.

A key open qustion is whether Andrade will choose to testify. This would probably open the door to allowing the prosecution to let the jury know that Andrade is a career criminal, which makes him much less sympathetic the jury and less trustworthy. This could harm a jury nullification bid and a mere shorter sentence may be something that Andrade does not live to enjoy anyway. But, if Andrade testifies about the events in question, there will be no other eye witnesses who can question him, so it will be easier for him to argue his intent, something physical evidence can only suggest inferrentially. Testifying could also humanize Andrade who otherwise is just a scowling face and admitted killer at the defense table to the jury. I suspect that in this case, the pros of testifying will outweigh the risks for Andrade.


Dex said...

you have a take on this one, proph?

Michael Malak said...

The Angie Zapata case reminds me of the Megan Meier case, the MySpace teen suicide. In both cases, the victim was intentionally deceived and manipulated in matters of strong emotions. This should be a crime. There is widespread support for Lori Drew, the adult deceiver in the Megan Meier case, to be prosecuted of something. Similarly, the actions of Angie Zapata warrant conviction of something -- false advertising perhaps. Angie Zapata and Andrade reportedly met online, so there was plenty of opportunity for disclosure. Advertising a broken toaster on Craigslist without mentioning it's broken constitutes false advertising and fraud. In this far more sensitive and important area of personal relationships, why do advertisers get a free pass?

If it were a crime, I would assume the "heat of passion" defense would be stronger for Andrade?

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

I've covered the story in multiple posts, mostly from a technical perspective.

The hate crimes component is more of a hinderance than a help from a prosecutor's perspective in a serious crime like this one where extra prison time isn't that big a concern and convictions are a big concern.

But, the hate crime component is very important to dramatizing the violence faced by the trans community. This is a tragedy that is a teaching moment for the larger society.

I'm very sympathetic to the risks that people like Zapata face every day in something relatively ordinary like this kind of encounter, and as an eighteen year old, navigating this very tricky social situation for the first few times makes minimizing those risks great.

The apparent facts don't appear to match "heat of passion" in a legal sense, even though there is a clear and understandable motive, and the fact that this is a recidivist criminal who also stole from the murder victim doesn't redeem him much either.

I have two posts entitled "Rare and Different" that talk about transsexualism is general. This is a group of people who aren't a threat to anyone, for whom pre-puberty intervention can prevent a world of hurt in many cases, and who deserve to have their mental gender identity taken seriously.

The evidence very strongly suggests that one's trans or non-trans gender identity is fixed very early in childhood and is immutable, although one can obviously respond to that in different ways.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

I have a quite dim view of the "deceiption" argument. Part of the dilemna of being trans is that there are two competing truths -- who I know myself to be and what my body looks like. Acting female is being true to oneself and is in a sense more honest, and encourages others to treat you as you fundamentally are.

This was so true that Andrade was a happy customer after completing a consentual sexual encounter with Zapata. That doesn't sound like criminal deception to me.

Also, one doesn't get the impression that this was anything more than a one night stand. One has less of an obligation of disclosure to a one time sex partner in an isolated encounter than one does to someone commiting to a permanet or long term intimate relationship.

Only the next morning, when re-evaluating that positive encounter from before when he learned more, did he become violent. What he learned and hadn't known wasn't something that would have hurt him in a non-disclosed STD, or newly discovered below statutory rape age for his partner, or his partner used intentionally defective contraception at a high fertility moment way. It might be more akin to a morning disclosure like, by the way, I've also had sex with your father/brother/son disclosures, or a disclosure that you only dated him on a dare from your best friend because she'd said he had a small @@&$#. Those aren't things we normally think that there is a legally binding duty to disclose in advance and while they may shame someone, don't justfiy violence.

Dex said...

i'll check em out. thanks.

Michael Malak said...

I didn't realize there was a sexual encounter -- I thought I had read that Andrade was denying it.

In that case, there is no "heat of passion" in my opinion since fornication (and in this case, sodomy) was illegal until recently, and in my opinion should be again. "Heat of passion" should come into play if the perpetrator was innocent up until the time of the act of violence.