Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Jury convicts Keith Phoenix of murder as a hate crime

A Brooklyn jury found a man guilty of murder as a hate crime in connection with José Sucuzhañay’s death.

The panel deliberated for several hours before it convicted Keith Phoenix on the charge late last night; and attempted assault as a hate crime against Romel Sucuzhañay. The verdict comes nearly two months after a jury convicted Hakim Scott of manslaughter, but acquitted him of second degree murder as a hate crime.

Members of the Sucuzhañay family, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and other elected officials and activists criticized Scott's acquittal on the hate crime charges, but they welcomed Phoenix’s conviction in statements they released after the jury announced its verdict.

“No verdict will ever bring peace to the family and friends of José Sucuzhañay,” said Quinn. “However, last night we received justice in the form of a guilty verdict of murder as a hate crime against Keith Phoenix.”

Ana María Archila, co-executive director of Make the Road New York, agreed.

“Although nothing will ever restore the life of José Sucuzhañay, this verdict will bring some measure of peace and justice to the family and the community,” she said. “We must now continue to work together to eradicate violence from our streets, and to promote public policies that respect and honor the humanity of LGBT and immigrant communities.”

Prosecutors maintain Phoenix and Scott shouted anti-gay and anti-Latino slurs at Sucuzhañay as he and his brother walked home on Dec. 7, 2008, before they beat him to death on a Bushwick street corner. Scott faces up to 25 years in prison, and Phoenix could potentially spend the rest of his life behind bars.

"On Dec. 8, 2008, our city woke up to the sad news that anti-immigrant and homophobic hatred had taken another precious life away,” continued Archila. “The murder of José Sucuzhañay reminded us all that you do not have to be gay to be the victim of homophobia, and you do not have to be undocumented to be the victim of anti-immigrant violence.”

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