The verdict finding one killer of José Sucuzhanay guilty of manslaughter and attempted assault, but not as hate crimes, drew immediate condemnation from elected officials, gay leaders, and across the gay blogosphere.
With all due respect, they got it wrong, said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, an out lesbian who represents Chelsea, at a May 7 press conference held outside Brooklyn Supreme Court. The fact that the jury got it wrong, the fact that this hate crime occurred at all, says we have more work to do.
On May 6, a jury convicted Hakim Scott in the 2008 killing of José and attempted assault on his brother, Romel. Scott, 26, faced multiple counts of second-degree murder, manslaughter, assault, and attempted assault, with some charged as hate crimes.
The district attorney said that Scott and Keith Phoenix, 30, attacked the brothers after mistaking them for a gay couple as they were walking home early in the morning on December 7, 2008 in Brooklyns Bushwick section. The two Ecuadorian immigrants were huddled close together to stay warm. Allegedly, anti-gay and anti-Latino slurs were used during the assault.
Among those joining Quinn was Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, who represents parts of Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens.
Hakim Scott and Mr. Phoenix shouted slurs, Velazquez said. If that is not a hate crime, I dont know what is.
Also speaking were City Councilman Daniel Dromm, a gay man who represents part of Queens, City Councilwoman Diana Reyna, who represents part of Brooklyn, Ana María Archila, co-executive director at Make the Road New York, and a senior staffer from the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project. AVP also issued a statement condemning the verdict.
Three of Josés brothers, including Romel, were at the press event and Diego spoke for the family. They just didnt like the way my brothers looked, Diego said.
On web sites such as joemygod.blogspot.com, rodonline.typepad.com, and towleroad.com, many posters were incensed that Scott avoided a guilty verdict on the murder charge and that the jury concluded this was not a hate crime.
Sean Chapin, who maintains a youtube.com channel, posted a three-minute video titled This Is Not A Hate Crime that drew more than 5,400 views in four days and comments that also condemned the verdict.
The Phoenix jury began deliberations late on May 6 and continued on May 7 and 10. Altogether, the Phoenix jury sent out 16 notes, with most requesting to see evidence, read back testimony, or hear instructions on the law. Most of their time on May 6 and 7 was spent in activities responding to the notes.
Attorneys and experienced court observers thought 16 was a high number, though that view was not universal.
The jury will resume deliberations on May 11.