"It's hard to prove that someone intended to kill someone else in the course of a fight," said Fred Klein, former head of the Major Case Squad for the Nassau district attorney's office. Klein is now a criminal law professor at Hofstra Law School.
In an assault case such as this one, where the victim, Lucero, was stabbed just once - albeit fatally - and where the defense raised the question of whether prompt medical help could have saved him, intent to kill is even harder to prove, Klein said.
The Suffolk jury found Conroy guilty of first-degree manslaughter as a hate crime but acquitted him of second-degree intentional murder and second-degree intentional murder as a hate crime, the top charges against him.
Legally, the two crimes differ in terms of the defendant's state of mind.
Murder means the defendant intends to kill the victim; first-degree manslaughter means he intends to cause serious physical injury and death results, said Richard Klein, who teaches criminal law at Touro Law School.
Prosecutors in the Conroy trial argued that he was trying to kill Lucero, mainly based on the nature of Lucero's injuries: that the blade went all the way into his chest and that it may have come partly out and then been pushed back in.
But Conroy's defense lawyer, William Keahon, argued that someone who meant to kill Lucero would have stabbed him several times, and would not have allowed Lucero to walk away, as witnesses said Conroy did.