Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Ball Bat Killer Guilty of Murder As A Hate Crime in Brooklyn

Keith Phoenix Found Guilty

Brooklyn, NY – Just seven hours after the jury was sequestered on Monday, José Sucuzhañay’s prime attacker, Keith Phoenix, was found guilty of second-degree murder as a hate crime.  When he is sentenced on August 5, Phoenix will face a possible 25 years to life in prison for his role in bludgeoning Sucuzhañay to death with an aluminum baseball bat on December 7, 2008 in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn.  City officials and the Sucuzhañay family expressed relief and satisfaction with the verdict.  The first trial was aborted when a holdout juror refused to co-operate with the process, alarming both the immigrant rights and LGBTQ communities that Phoenix might squeak through the legal system with little or no punishment for one of the most brutal hate crimes in recent New York history.  Phoenix’s accomplice, Hakim Scott, was found guilt of manslaughter and aggravated assault on May 6, but escaped the hate crime enhancement when the jury set aside the charge. The Scott decision drew a storm of criticism, so the eyes of many were focussed on what the jury would do in the Phoenix case.  As reported by the NY Post, José’s brother, Diego Sucuzhañay, standing at the corner of Bushwick Avenue and Kossuth Place, now renamed “Sucuzhañay Place” in memory of his brother, congratulated the jury for its work. “We were afraid we would not get justice. The first time the mistrial and our family had to go through this process, this painful process. But we wanted justice for the death of our brother,” he said, with his other brother Romel standing beside him.  Also quoted in the Post, Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes said, “Just hours after this horrible tragedy, I came to this location and I pledged that the people who did this horrible thing to Jose would be found be convicted and the only way they would come out of prison would be in a box.  I’m here today to reaffirm that,” the D.A. concluded. For his part, Phoenix, 30, who had not expressed any remorse for what he did, was taken aback by the verdict, according to the Gay City Times.  “I think he’s kind of surprised by this result,” Philip J. Smallman, Phoenix’s attorney, said of his client, following the announcement of the verdict.  Phoenix never entertained the thought that he would be convicted of a hate crime.  Smallman has declared that he intends to appeal the verdict on Phoenix’s behalf.  Because Scott and Phoenix targeted José and Romel for being “Spanish” and “faggots” as they huddled together against the Brooklyn winter, the case drew together two unusual groups of allies, immigrants’ rights advocates and LGBTQ human rights activists.  Though the Sucuzhañay brothers are heterosexual, mistaking their sexual orientation as gay has helped sensitize the Latino/a community to the shared sense of injustice experienced by LGBT people in the United States and Ecuador.

June 30, 2010 - Posted by | African Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Beatings and battery, Bludgeoning, Brooklyn, Ecuador, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, Latinos, Law and Order, Mistaken as LGBT, New York, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Racism, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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