Graphic details in hate crime trial

April 23, 2010 8:27:17 PM PDT
In shocking and graphic detail, a man accused in a notorious hate crime murder, described the attack that killed an Ecuadorian immigrant in Brooklyn, back in 2008.Some jurors cried when they watched Keith Phoenix's videotaped statement.

"I grabbed the bat I swung at him four times," said Keith Phoenix.

The video is chilling.

"I hit him midsection and he fell," Phoenix described, "he was trying to get back up and I hit him again."

The suspect's videotaped statement to police shortly after his arrest, reportedly had jurors in the courtroom, shaking their heads in disgust.

And later, the victim's family expressed their anger.

"He showed no emotions at all. That's very offensive to our family," said Romel Sucuzhanay.

For the first time, Diego and Romel Sucuzhanay, watched Keith Phoenix describe the beating death of their brother, Jose.

On videotape, Phoenix nonchalantly discussed grabbing a baseball bat and swinging.

"I hit him four times, then hit him two times toward the head and the face," described Phoenix.

Phoenix and Hakim Scott are accused of what authorities say was the hate crime murder of Jose Sucuzhanay.

In December 2008, Romel and Jose were walking home from a bar in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn.

Romel put his coat around his brother's shoulders.

Authorities say, while yelling racial and homophobic slurs, Phoenix and Scott got out of their vehicle.

Scott hit Romel Sucuzhanay with a bottle, while investigators say Phoenix beat Jose Sucuzhanay, "over and over again".

Romel showed Eyewitness News the scars he still has from the attack.

"They are not sorry for what they did, and I'm sure they'll do it again," said Romel Sucuzhanay.

Hakim Scott and Keith Phoenix have pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder as a hate crime and assault in the death of Jose Sucuzhanay and the beating of his brother, Romel. Phoenix said he acted in self-defense because it appeared Jose Sucuzhanay was reaching for a gun.

Jose Sucuzhanay went into a coma and died several days later as his mother was en route from Ecuador to see him. He was buried in Ecuador.

After the attack, hundreds of people demonstrated in Brooklyn.

Officials in Ecuador monitored the investigation and discussed urging the U.S. Congress to back a campaign of anti-bias education.

The brothers were attacked because Phoenix "didn't like what they looked like," Hanshaft said. "He didn't like that they were Hispanic. From his eye, it appeared they were a gay couple - a way of life he didn't like and wasn't going to tolerate."

The two men are being tried separately. Phoenix's attorney, Philip Smallman, asked jurors to keep an open mind.

"Does anything good happen at 3 am, in 30-degree weather, with people with bellies full of booze? No," Smallman said.

Scott's attorney, Craig Newman, said Scott wasn't guilty of a hate crime and didn't intend to hurt anyone.

"It was never about hate, never about prejudice," Newman said.

The attack came about a month after another Ecuadorean immigrant, Marcelo Lucero, was stabbed to death in Patchogue, N.Y.

Jeffrey Conroy, 19, was convicted of manslaughter as a hate crime in that case on Monday.

Conroy was one of seven teenagers implicated in the November 2008 stabbing, a death that prosecutors said was the culmination of a campaign of violence targeting Hispanics on Long Island. The teens described the activity as "beaner-hopping" or "Mexican hopping."

Four other defendants have pleaded guilty to hate crime-related charges in the Lucero case, and two others are awaiting trial.

(The associated press contributed to this report)


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