The jury deliberating the case of Keith Phoenix, charged in the murder of Ecuadorean immigrant Jose Sucuzhañay in Brooklyn, has declared a mistrial after one juror refused to continue. Phoenix's accomplice, Hakim Scott, was convicted of manslaughter and assault but not as a hate crime, last week.
"Although the holdout juror in Mr. Phoenix’s case was not identified, Mr. Phoenix’s lawyer, Philip J. Smallman, told reporters afterward that jurors were torn over whether to find Mr. Phoenix guilty of murder or the lesser charge of manslaughter.
'I’m a little surprised' about the outcome, said Mr. Smallman, who said he had spoken with the jurors. He also characterized the jury’s 23 requests over a four-day period to review testimony and the specifics of charges against his client as an unusually high number.
One of the prosecutors in the case, Assistant District Attorney Josh Hanshaft, declined to comment on the mistrial.
For his part, Romel Sucuzhañy expressed disappointment with the outcome of the trial but said he was optimistic about the next one.
'My family, we feel very worried. The evidence was there,' he said through a translator to reporters outside the courthouse. 'I hope that we have success in the new one.'"
In the December 2008 crime, Sucuzhañay, 31, and his brother Romel, were walking home arm-in-arm after a night of drinking in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn, and were attacked by Phoenix and Scott because they were perceived to be gay, police say, although anti-Hispanic slurs were also used during the assault.