The trials of two men charged with the beating and killing of an Ecuadorian immigrant thought to be gay by his assailants began Tuesday in a Brooklyn, New York courtroom, New York City-based NY1 reported.

Hakim Scott, 26, and Keith Phoenix, 30, are facing life sentences if convicted of the second-degree murder as a hate crime of Jose Sucuzhanay.

Sucuzhanay died from injuries he sustained on December 7, 2008. Authorities allege Scott and Phoenix attacked Sucuzhanay and his brother Romel because they thought the men were gay. The two men were walking home arm-in-arm from a bar in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn. Their attackers yelled anti-gay and anti-Latino slurs as they beat them. Phoenix is accused of wielding the death blow to the head with an aluminum bat.

Scott says he's innocent.

Phoenix's lawyer says his client acted out of self-defense, adding that the brothers provoked the fight when one of them kicked the SUV the two men were sitting in.

The trial will include two juries – one for each defendant.