Defendant blames fellow teen in New York stabbing death
Posted: Friday, April 9, 2010 8:01 pm
By FRANK ELTMAN
Associated Press Writer
RIVERHEAD, N.Y. (AP) — A Long Island teenager accused of stabbing an immigrant to death testified Thursday that an acquaintance delivered the fatal blow and insisted he wasn’t even carrying a knife the night of the killing, despite admitting the crime to police.
Jeffrey Conroy, 19, was called as the first defense witness, and proceeded to deny that he inflicted a fatal stab wound on Ecuadorean immigrant Marcelo Lucero on a Patchogue, N.Y., street in November 2008.
He is one of seven teenagers charged in the case, but the only one accused of murder and manslaughter as a hate crime and other charges because prosecutors say he delivered the fatal wound.
Prosecutors say the killing was the culmination of an ongoing campaign of violence by the teens against Hispanics. Since the killing, the U.S. Department of Justice has opened an investigation into hate crimes on eastern Long Island and the police response to such cases.
State Supreme Court Justice Robert W. Doyle had previously ruled that Conroy could not testify that another teen had stabbed Lucero, but amended that ruling Thursday morning. He said the testimony was permissible to show jurors Conroy’s state of mind when he was questioned by police.
Lucero, 37, was walking with a friend near the Patchogue train station when they were confronted by the teenagers, who prosecutors say were strolling around town looking for targets. The teens began yelling ethnic slurs and approached the men. One of the teens punched Lucero in the face. Within moments, Lucero and his friend were swinging their belts in self-defense and began to pursue the teens to a parking lot.
Conroy testified that at one point, co-defendant Christopher Overton told him he had stabbed Lucero.
“He said, ’Jeff, I think I just stabbed the guy in the shoulder,”’ Conroy said Overton told him. “’I really could get in trouble for this. Can you please take the knife? I only nicked him and I’ll promise you he’s not hurt.”’
Conroy said Overton had told him earlier in the night that he had a burglary conviction and could not afford further trouble with the police. He also testified that the two had just met that night.
During the prosecution phase of the trial, two police officers and another of the teens involved in the killing testified that Conroy had admitted to being the one who inflicted the final blow. Conroy did not explain why he decided to take the blame for a killing.
The judge has also ruled that prosecutors would be permitted to ask Conroy about statements he made to jail officials when he was arrested, claiming to have been raised in a racist household and to follow white Supremacist Web sites. It was revealed during testimony earlier in the trial that Conroy has a swastika tattoo on his leg.
Published in The Messenger 4.9.10