LI teen guilty of hate crime manslaughter

April 19, 2010 2:37:31 PM PDT
A Long Island teenager has been convicted of manslaughter as a hate crime in the stabbing death of an Ecuadorean immigrant. The case cast a national spotlight on bias crimes against Hispanics.The jury said Marcelo Lucero's death was a hate crime, but decided to acquit him of murder.

As the relatives of Marcelo Lucero applauded the justice system, Jeff Conroy's family rushed out of court in tears.

There were so many lives destroyed due to one senseless act of violence.

After 3 ½ days of deliberations, the jury found 19-year-old Conroy guilty of manslaughter as a hate crime.

Despite the conviction, this wasn't a day to celebrate.

"It's something I have to live with for the rest of my life, it's really painful every single day, and I can't forget my brother like that," said Joselo Lucero, the victim's brother.

"The verdict that this jury announced, will forever be a part of the legacy of Marcelo Lucero, and that legacy is that the law protects everyone," stated Suffolk County District Attorney, Thomas Spota.

Jurors listened to a month of excruciating testimony of how back in November of 2008, Jeff Conroy and six teenagers went out hunting for Mexicans to beat up, and how Conroy ended up plunging a knife into Lucero's chest.

During the trial the 19-year-old took the stand, and tried to blame a co-defendant for the stabbing, but the jury didn't buy it.

"It's a serious responsibility, you have 12 people and somebody's life is depending on these 12 people," said juror Michael Engel.

Their toughest decision came down to whether it was murder or manslaughter.

In the end, they didn't believe Conroy intended to kill Lucero.

"From what the implications are right, a young man's going to go to jail for however long he's going to go to jail for, and another family lost their brother, it has to be hard to separate yourself from the facts," said juror Amy Lester.

Monday, the Lucero family returned to the scene of the crime to pray for their loved one.

After the verdict, Rosario Lucero told the media she forgives her son's killer.

"Her son will never be back, but he will have to live with what he did in his conscience," relayed Fernando Mateo, the Lucero Family's spokesman.

Latino Justice-PRLDEF repeatedly lobbied for a federal investigation of hate crimes on Long Island following the killing.

The U.S. Department of Justice announced last fall it would investigate hate crimes and the police response to them. Spokesman Alejandro Miyar said Monday the investigation remains "open and ongoing." Suffolk police have said they're cooperating with the probe.

Prosecutors say many Hispanics attacked in the days before Lucero's killing were afraid to report the crimes to police, fearing questions about their immigration status. The teenagers, she said, were aware of that trepidation and took advantage of their victims' fears by operating with impunity.

First degree manslaughter as a hate crime carries a maximum sentence of 25 years and a minimum sentence of 8 years.

Conroy will be sentenced on May 26th.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)