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Long Island hate-crime slaying case goes to jury

By the CNN Wire Staff
Jeffrey Conroy is charged with second-degree murder as a hate crime in the slaying of Marcello Lucero.
Jeffrey Conroy is charged with second-degree murder as a hate crime in the slaying of Marcello Lucero.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ecuadorian native Marcello Lucero was stabbed to death in November 2008
  • Jeffrey Conroy is charged with second-degree murder as a hate crime
  • Prosecutors say Conroy and friends targeted Latinos for assault
  • Attorney says Conroy confessed in 2008 to protect a friend
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New York (CNN) -- Jury deliberations are set to begin Wednesday morning in the case of a Long Island man charged with murder as a hate crime.

Nineteen-year-old Jeffrey Conroy is on trial in the death of Marcello Lucero, a 37-year-old native of Ecuador. Lucero died after being stabbed in the chest November 8, 2008.

Conroy is charged with second-degree murder as a hate crime, first-degree manslaughter as a hate crime, gang assault, and conspiracy. He also faces three attempted-assault charges in incidents not related to Lucero's death.

Prosecutors in Suffolk County say Conroy and six friends deliberately targeted Latinos for assault in 2008, in what they called "beaner hopping."

Prosecutors presented their closing arguments Tuesday. District Attorney Megan O'Donnell showed the jury images of Lucero's wounds, the knife used to kill him, and the 370-foot trail of blood Lucero left behind after he was stabbed. Jurors also saw pictures of the clothes Lucero and Conroy wore on the night of the incident, including a belt Lucero used to defend himself, along with images of Conroy's swastika tattoo.

O'Donnell told jurors that DNA evidence proved the blood on Conroy's clothes belonged to Lucero. And, she said, forensic medical results showed the knife was used to stab Lucero twice with brutal force.

Prosecutors also pointed out that Conroy had confessed to the crime shortly afterward, maintaining there was "no time" to make up a defense argument.

Isabel and Joselo Lucero, the victim's brother and sister, said they were satisfied with closing arguments and felt relieved to know the truth is coming out.

On Monday, the Lucero siblings held a news conference on what would have been Marcello Lucero's 39th birthday. They called defense closing arguments, which were held that day, a "slap in the face."

Attorney William J. Keahon, who is representing Conroy, argued Monday that none of the 25 witnesses who took the stand actually saw Conroy stab Lucero.

Keahon also addressed Conroy's confession. He said it was motivated by a desire to protect Chris Overton, one of four juveniles who pleaded guilty to lesser charges related to the case. Keahon insisted that Overton claimed he'd stabbed Lucero "mildly." The attorney said Overton asked Conroy to hold the knife, since there were charges pending against Overton.

However, these allegations upset Overton's mother, who voiced her anger at the media.

Also Monday, a group of immigrant community activists held a news conference. They talked about the climate of fear in the Long Island area as a result of hate-related crimes.

The Southern Poverty Law Center -- which keeps tabs on hate groups -- recently released a report that found Latinos in Suffolk County, on the north shore of Long Island, live with intolerance and violence directed at them.

Conroy faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted on the second-degree murder charge.

Journalist Patricia Pedraza contributed to this report for CNN.

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