“On Nov. 8, 2008, the hunt was on,” Megan O’Donnell, the prosecutor, told 12 jurors and 4 alternates in State Supreme Court on Thursday. The defendant, Jeffrey Conroy, 19, was one of seven Patchogue-Medford High School students who the police and prosecutors said attacked an Ecuadorean immigrant, Marcelo Lucero, in November 2008. The fatal stabbing of Mr. Lucero shocked many on Long Island and focused new attention on assaults and harassment of Latinos in the area.
In her opening statement, Ms. O’Donnell described how the teenagers, including Mr. Conroy, roamed the village of Patchogue that Saturday evening for one purpose: to find a Hispanic person to assault. “They were not in Patchogue looking to go to a party,” said Ms. O’Donnell, an assistant district attorney in Suffolk County. They were, instead, “looking for blood — specifically, Mexican blood.” They called the sport Mexican-hopping or beaner-hopping, she said. Ms. O’Donnell told the jurors that Mr. Conroy expressed his feelings of white supremacy, both in the tattoos on his body and in the statements that he made to others, and that he made Hispanics targets because of their ethnicity and because he “felt these people were easy targets” who were unlikely to call the police. That night, the group hopped into a sport utility vehicle belonging to one of the teenagers, after drinking beer with a larger group at the Medford train station, she said. Earlier that day, two of the teenagers shot a BB gun at another Latino man, Marlon Garcia.
Later that evening, the boys, unable to find potential victims in Medford, drove to Patchogue and went after Hector Sierra, who managed to escape. Prosecutors have charged some or all of the teenagers with attacking or trying to attack a total of six Hispanic men, including Mr. Lucero, Mr. Garcia and Mr. Sierra. When they spotted Mr. Lucero walking with a friend near the train station in Patchogue, they surrounded him, she said. Some of the teens chased the friend, Angel Loja, while Mr. Lucero took off his denim jacket and started swinging his belt.
The belt struck Mr. Conroy in the head. Mr. Conroy, she said, took out his knife and thrust it into Mr. Lucero’s upper right chest. The teenagers fled, and Mr. Conroy rinsed the blood off the knife in a puddle of rainwater, shortly before police officers stopped the group and discovered the knife on Mr. Conroy, she said. She added that Mr. Conroy admitted to the police at the time that he had stabbed Mr. Lucero. “There is one cause for the death of Marcelo Lucero, one cause, and that is the defendant,” she told the jury. Mr. Conroy is facing second-degree murder as a hate crime, gang assault and other charges. He is the first person to stand trial for murder as a hate crime on Long Island since the state’s hate-crime law was enacted in 2000.
Mr. Conroy has pleaded not guilty to all charges.