Nineteen-year-old Omar Willock was charged with fatally stabbing 20-year-old Roberto Duncanson to death on May 12, 2007. Witnesses and the prosecution said the two men passed each other on a Crown Heights street. Willock claimed Duncanson looked at him suggestively and flirted with him, so he followed him for several blocks, yelled anti-gay and homophobic epithets and fatally stabbed him.
Willock had been charged with murder as a hate crime but last week Justice Neil Jon Firetog ruled the prosecution failed to make a strong enough case for the hate crime charge to hold. Despite eyewitnesses and surveillance video, the defense tried to raise reasonable doubt.
The defense argued that Toon had mistaken Omar for his identical twin,
Omari, and wanted to introduce testimony from a Manhattan police
detective that Omari was wanted in a stabbing while Omar was in jail
for the Duncanson killing. Firetog would not allow it, saying that
evidence was not relevant.
[Beriah Wall, one of the jurors] said the jury "had some wind of that" and that the defense "muddied" the case for the jurors, but that questions about Willock's identical twin ultimately did not sway them.
"Omari was eliminated because the detective said he was not a suspect in this crime," Wall said. "The twin was obfuscation as far as we were concerned."
Roberto Duncanson, nicknamed "Pancho", was out to coworkers and close friends but not his mother or family. In an interview shortly after he was killed, his mother said he was a loving son with "the heart of a lion."
It took four days for the jury to reach a decision. Omar Willock faces up to 25 years to life behind bars when he is sentenced. Conviction on the enhanced hate crime penalty would have been an automatic life sentence.