05/12/2010 // West Palm Beach, FL, USA // Tara Monks // Tara Monks New York criminal law news reporter
Brooklyn, NY – The murder trial of a man accused of beating an Ecuadorian immigrant to death with a baseball bat while yelling ethnic slurs ended in a mistrial on Tuesday, May 11, 2010, because one juror believed the defendant deserved a lesser charge, as reported by New York Daily News and the New York Times.
The mistrial came after 35 hours of deliberation over the period of four days. The 12-person Brooklyn Supreme Court jury announced at 8:35 p.m. that they were deadlocked. Members of the jury reported that 11 of them were in agreement that Keith Phoenix, 30, was guilty of second-degree murder, but not guilty of the hate-crime charges.
The juror that refused to deliberate any further wanted Phoenix to be convicted of manslaughter only.
On December 7, 2008, Romel Sucuzhanay, his deceased brother José and José’s girlfriend were walking through a crosswalk at an intersection in Brooklyn after leaving a church party.
At the same time, Keith Phoenix, Hakim Scott, 26, and a cousin, Demetrius Nathaniel were on their way home from a party and stopped at a red light at the same intersection in their red sport utility vehicle.
Phoenix yelled an anti-gay slur at the brothers, which provoked them to kick the SUV, according to testimony provided by Nathaniel.
Scott jumped out of the car and smashed José over the head with a beer bottle, which knocked him to the ground. Scott then proceeded to chase Romel with the beer bottle.
Phoenix then got out of the SUV with an aluminum bat, which he used to hit Jose approximately six times. In his confession from February 2009, he claimed he grabbed the bat because he believed José was reaching for a gun.
The videotaped confession was reviewed twice during jury deliberations.
Hakim Scott was convicted of manslaughter, but not of committing a hate crime, last week in a separate Supreme Court trial.
Juror Guy Danza reported the uncompromising juror was adamant in her belief that Phoenix did not mean to kill José when he beat him repeatedly with a baseball bat. Danza was quoted saying, “We are very, very upset. We hated to go all this way and not have a verdict…Believe me, there was a lot of crying in that jury room, a lot of arguing. It was just one stubborn, selfish woman.”
Because of the mistrial, Phoenix must wait for a second trial, which has been scheduled for June 15.
Address: Brooklyn, NY