A judge has ruled that statements made by two defendants charged in the hate killing of an Ecuadorean immigrant can be used in court, setting the stage for a high-profile trial slated to begin next month.
State Supreme Court Justice Robert W. Doyle ruled that Jeffrey Conroy's statement, in which he confesses to stabbing Marcelo Lucero in Patchogue last November, was taken voluntarily and with the proper advisement of his rights. Doyle also ruled that a witness' identification of Conroy at the scene was done appropriately.
"I told the cop that my knife was tucked in my boxers and I was the one who stabbed the guy," Conroy said in the statement.
Conroy is the only defendant charged with second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter, both as hate crimes.
Told about the decision, Conroy's defense attorney, William Keahon of Islandia, said, "This decision does not surprise me. With all the intense publicity surrounding this case, it has caused many people to be less than objective."
"Certainly when a fair-minded jury hears the true facts of this case the outcome will be different," he added.
Doyle has also ruled that 18-year-old defendant Kevin Shea's statement to police - in which he admits to punching Lucero - is admissible in court.
In response, Shea's defense attorney, Steven Politi of Central Islip, said, "The court doesn't believe that chaining someone to the floor, not feeding them for eight hours and not giving them a phone call is enough to warrant the preclusion of an alleged statement written by a detective."
Shea and Conroy's signed statements were handwritten by detectives based on oral interviews. Both statements were accompanied by sketches the teens drew of the crime scene.
Shea and Conroy are also charged with additional attacks against other Latino victims that night and in earlier confrontations.
Jury selection for Shea is set to begin on Monday. Jury selection for Conroy is slated for March 1.
Doyle has not yet ruled on defense attorney motions for separate trials. A source said since the statements are admissible, prosecutors will likely seek one trial with separate juries.
Two other defendants - Nicholas Hausch, 18, of Medford and Jose Pacheco, 18, of Patchogue - have pleaded guilty to first-degree gang assault and are cooperating with authorities.