BROOKLYN: Jury Convicts Keith Phoenix In Hate Crime Murder Retrial
Justice was at last served yesterday in the hate crime murder retrial of Keith Phoenix (left), who in 2008 beat Ecuadorean immigrant Jose Sucuzhanay to death with a metal baseball bat as he screamed anti-gay and anti-Hispanic epithets. Last month a mistrial was declared when jurors could not agree on convicting Phoenix of murder or manslaughter. The second trial's jury saw things more clearly and deliberated for less than a day. Gay City News editor Paul Schindler reports:
The Brooklyn jury hearing the second trial of Keith Phoenix, the killer of José Sucuzhanay, convicted him of second-degree murder as a hate crime as well as attempted assault as a hate crime in the attack on Romel Sucuzhanay, José’s brother. “This verdict sent the right message,” said Diego Sucuzhanay, another of José’s brothers, after the jury announced its verdict at roughly 9:30 p.m. on June 28. “We believe that justice has been done for our brother.” Phoenix, 30, and Hakim Scott, 27, assaulted the brothers after mistaking them for a gay couple as they were walking home early in the morning on December 7, 2008 in Brooklyn’s Bushwick section. The two Ecuadorian immigrants were huddled close together to stay warm. Romel said an anti-Latino slur was used. Two other witnesses heard an anti-gay slur. Phoenix was convicted on the top counts he faced and could get as much as 40 years in prison for the killing when he is sentenced on August 5. His first trial ended in a mistrial after one juror held out for a manslaughter conviction while the other 11 wanted to convict on second-degree murder. The first jury did not believe the attack was a hate crime.Last month Phoenix' accomplice in the attack, Hakim Scott, was convicted of manslaughter only and unbelievably, that jury dismissed hate crime charges. Both men will be sentenced next month.