Jury selection for the trial of the two
men charged with the beating and killing of an Ecuadorian immigrant
thought to be gay by his assailants begins Monday in a Brooklyn, New
York courtroom, New York City-based NY1 reported.
Although both Hakim Scott, 26, and
Keith Phoenix, 30, have confessed to the December 7, 2008 hate crime
slaying of Jose Sucuzhanay, Scott reportedly rejected on Friday a
district attorney's deal of pleading guilty in exchange for a prison
sentence of 18 years.
The men are facing life sentences if
convicted of the charges of second-degree murder as a hate crime,
manslaughter, assault and attempted assault.
Jose Sucuzhanay and his brother Romel
were attacked in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn while walking
home arm-in-arm from a bar. Their attackers yelled anti-gay and
anti-Latino slurs as they beat them. During a March, 2009 news
conference, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said Phoenix wielded
the death blow to the head with an aluminum bat and even returned to
strike Jose Sucuzhanay again after he noticed the 31-year-old move.
Romel Sucuzhanay managed to escape and call police.
Sucuzhanay, a real estate broker, died
five days later from his injuries at Elmhurst Hospital Center in
Phoenix had been identified by police
through video surveillance taken at a tollbooth at the Robert F.
Kennedy Bridge where he is seen laughing 19 minutes after the attack.
Kelly said police detectives collared
Phoenix in a Yonkers apartment at 2:30AM, where he was hiding in the
bathroom. Phoenix protested his arrest saying, “So I killed
someone. That makes me a bad guy?”
After rejecting the plead deal, Scott
told the New York Daily News that he's innocent.
“I didn't kill nobody,” Scott said
Saturday. “Come on, man – you know the truth.”
At a March arraignment, Jay H.
Schwitzman, Phoenix's lawyer, said his client denies being motivated
by hate; it was self-defense. The brothers provoked Scott into a
fight when they kicked the SUV the two men were sitting in and
Phoenix only became involved because he believed the immigrant was
reaching for a gun in his waistband, his lawyer said. Investigators
say they did not not find a weapon.