Judge tosses confession, gang links in Greeley transgender murder trial

(Photo/Joe Gratz, Flickr)

(Photo/Joe Gratz, Flickr)

A judge ruled this week that jurors won’t hear part of the confession of a man accused of killing an 18-year-old Greeley transgender woman. In addition, Weld District Court Judge Marcelo Kopcow ruled that prosecutors won’t be able to tell jurors that Allen Andrade has gang ties that could have been a motive in the brutal slaying last summer of Angie Zapata, the Greeley Tribune reports.

Kopcow ruled that police shouldn’t have continued questioning Andrade once he told a detective he wanted to stop talking during a lengthy interrogation.

“This court finds the defendant’s statement, ‘I’m done. Yeah, I’m not talking right now’ … is a clear statement of the defendant’s request to remain silent and cut off further questioning,” Kopcow wrote, according to the Tribune.

“(Greeley Police Department) Detective (Greg) Tharp did not scrupulously honor the defendant’s exercise of the right to remain silent and cut off questioning.”

It’s unclear what Andrade told police during the first 39 minutes of the interrogation, conducted over two hours after police arrested Andrade in Thornton driving a car belonging to Zapata’s sister almost two weeks after Zapata’s body was discovered.

According to a police affidavit cited by the Tribune:

… Andrade told Tharp he met Zapata on the Internet and that they had arranged a date. The affidavit said he stayed at Zapata’s apartment alone while she went out, and he realized Zapata was a man. When Zapata returned later, Andrade confronted her about being a man, eventually hitting her with his fists and knocking her to the ground, the affidavit stated.

Andrade, according to the affidavit, said he then hit Zapata with a fire extinguisher, and later, when she started to wake up, he hit her several more times until she died.

The judge also ruled prosecutors can’t call experts to testify that Andrade was the member of a gang that routinely punished members — even killing them — when they engaged in homosexual acts. The prosecution planned to argue Andrade decided he had to kill Zapata to save face with his gang once he discovered she was a transgender woman, The Denver Post’s Monte Whaley reports.

“While this proposed evidence (about Andrade’s gang ties) may be material and relevant to the defendant’s motive, this court finds that the probative value of this evidence is strongly outweighed by the unfair (prejudicial) effect it will have on the jury,” Kopcow wrote. The judge’s ruling also noted that the Greeley Police gang expert didn’t know whether Andrade’s gang had ever punished a member duped into having sex with a transgender woman, as the defense claims.

Andrade, 31, is scheduled to go on trial April 14 in Weld District Court on charges of first-degree murder, commission of a hate crime, automobile theft and identity theft. Late last year, District Attorney Ken Buck filed habitual criminal charges against Andrade, which could quadruple his sentence if he isn’t found guilty of the most serious murder charge.

Ruling that prisoners “have little, if any, reasonable expectation of privacy while incarcerated,” Kopcow decided recordings of calls Andrade made from jail to his girlfriend could be used in the trial. In the calls, Andrade said “gay things need to die” and bragged that other prisons feared him because of his reputation wielding a fire extinguisher.

Andrade is being held without bond at the Weld County Jail.

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Ernest Luning

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