Jeffrey Conroy was convicted of manslaughter as a hate crime in the death of Marcelo Lucero and could be sentenced next month to between 8 and 25 years in jail. Conroy was also found guilty on lesser charges of going “beaner-jumping” with other teens in order to assault other Latinos. Nevertheless Conroy escaped being convicted for the most serious charge of second-degree murder as a hate crime, which would’ve carried a maximum punishment of life in prison.
Conroy was the only one of seven implicated in the Lucero case to be charged with murder and manslaughter. Though he originally confessed to police that he killed Lucero he took back his admission and proclaimed his innocence at the trial. Conroy’s attorney argued that he took the rap for a teen he met hours before attacking Lucero but prosecutors said that Conroy showed an intent to kill and tried to pin the blame on someone he barely knew.
Suffolk County prosecutors declared the verdict as fair and Conroy’s attorney said that he would appeal the verdict. Yet local Latino activists and members of the Ecuadorian exile community feel that that the conviction was insufficient. “There are no winners”, said one Ecuadorian official according to newsday.com while Lucero’s brother Joselo was disappointed over the verdict in remarks he made to Ecuadorian radio.
Lucero’s death helped galvanize Long Island’s growing Latino community against what they claimed was an attitude of intolerance even among officials. Such an attitude has changed somewhat though not enough to dissuade fears among Latinos:
Many Hispanics attacked in the days before Lucero's killing were afraid to report the crimes to police, fearing questions about their immigration status, prosecutors said...While one trial nears its close another one involving a slain Ecuadorian immigrant is in its initial stages. Jury selection continued today in the 2008 murder of Jose Sucuzhuñay in Brooklyn.
After the Lucero killing, Suffolk Police assigned an Ecuadorean born officer to work as a liaison between police and the Hispanic community in Patchogue. Some Hispanics in the community say conditions have improved, but advocates have held several press conferences during the trial, contending much work still needs to be done to ease fears.
Image- New York Times (“A vigil in Patchogue, N.Y., in 2008 for Marcelo Lucero, six days after he was killed.”)
Online Sources- newsday.com, New York Times, MSNBC, CNN, AP, NY1