This morning the defense for Keith Phoenix presented their closing arguments. Phoenix is accused of using an aluminum baseball bat to deliver fatal blows to Jose Sucuzhañay—and returning to finish the job. The case is expected to go to the jury this afternoon. Another jury began deliberations last night in the trial of co-defendant Hakim Scott.
And this morning an alternate juror in the Scott case was excused to take care of her child. The excused juror does not believe the killing was motivated by bias, she told the New York Times. "'It was a matter of circumstance,' said the juror, a 34-year-old white woman who declined to give her name. 'Wrong place, wrong time.'"
It could be days before there is a verdict in the case, or any sense whether the alternate juror’s opinion is held by other jurors. But in a murder case in which both defendants have admitted to violent acts, her thoughts spoke to the central mystery of the case: What set off the violence that led to the death of the immigrant, José O. Sucuzhañay.
Prosecutors said the defendants, Keith Phoenix, 30, and Hakim Scott, 26, were driven by hate, attacking Mr. Sucuzhañay and his brother Romel because they were Hispanic and because Mr. Phoenix and Mr. Scott thought they were gay. Mr. Scott is accused of smashing a bottle on José Sucuzhañay’s head, and Mr. Phoenix with beating him repeatedly with a bat. Both men are charged with murder as a hate crime and could face life in prison if convicted.
But defense lawyers have argued that what occurred that night, at a corner in Bushwick, was a street fight of drunken men. Apart from various slurs that witnesses said they heard, there was no proof that bias played any role, the lawyers said.
Phoenix and Scott face charges of second-degree murder as a hate crime, manslaughter, assault and attempted assault. The hate crime verdict would increase the minimum penalties. Both defendants face life sentences if convicted. There are also political ramifications: José Sucuzhañay’s December 2008 beating filled the streets with hundreds of outraged marchers, as well as politicians.
Rod 2.0's complete coverage HERE. More details as they develop ...