In Jury Selection for Hate Crime, a Struggle to Find Tolerance

Manny Fernandez, New York Times, March 8, 2010

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The prospective jurors were being asked to sit in judgment in the case involving the killing of Marcelo Lucero, a 37-year-old Ecuadorean immigrant stabbed to death in November 2008 in Patchogue, more than an hour’s drive from Manhattan.

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Now, as Jeffrey Conroy, 19, becomes the first defendant to go on trial in the case, jury selection has proven difficult, in part because of the views on Latino immigration held by some prospective jurors in Suffolk County.

Last week, after three days of jury selection, about 130 men and women were questioned by the judge, the prosecutor and Mr. Conroy’s defense lawyer here in State Supreme Court. Only five were selected; the rest were excused. On Monday, jury selection continued as another roughly 130 were brought in, and more than a dozen were excused by the end of the day.

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At times, the jury selection had the feel of a call-in show on talk radio, as men and women sounded off on illegal immigration, hate crimes, their ethnic background and the American dream. {snip}

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Several potential jurors were let go because they said they had strong views on illegal immigration and would be unable to be fair and impartial. Others were excused because they said they had Hispanic family members, or were Hispanic themselves, and would side with the victim and his family. {snip}

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{snip} Bruce Barket, a Long Island defense lawyer and a former Nassau County prosecutor, said of the comments being made in this case so far, “{snip} Race is probably the most dominant unspoken factor in almost every trial.”

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