Jury selection for the 19-year-old Medford resident charged with fatally stabbing an Ecuadorean immigrant in Patchogue kicked off Tuesday morning in State Supreme Court in Riverhead.
Clad in a gray suit and white shirt, defendant Jeffrey Conroy turned around to glance at the more than 100 potential jurors that filled Justice Robert W. Doyle's courtroom, taking up every seat.
Conroy is charged with second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter, both as hate crimes, for the Nov. 8, 2008 killing of Marcelo Lucero. He is the first of seven defendants to go on trial; four others have pleaded guilty to lesser charges and agreed to testify against Conroy if necessary.
Several of the potential jurors gasped while Doyle read off the charges against Conroy. One woman shook her head as he recounted statements Conroy and six other co-defendants allegedly made as they set out to target Latino victims.
"It's anticipated that this case will take six to eight weeks following jury selection," Doyle warned the jurors before several dozen were allowed to leave because they said they would incur an economic hardship, had vacation plans or were taking care of a sick person.
Several more were allowed to leave when Doyle said there was a possibility - though he doesn't anticipate it - that the jury would be sequestered in a hotel during deliberations.
Doyle read off a list of about 30 people that prosecutors may call up for testimony, including Nicholas Hausch. Hausch, 18, of Medford, was the first defendant to plead guilty to charges in connection with Lucero's death.
Also listed were teenagers that were with the defendants before Lucero was killed on the night of Nov. 8.
As Doyle called the first 16 jurors to the box for questioning, the challenge of finding a jury not prejudiced by extensive media coverage became apparent. Several said they had read newspaper articles about the case, and three were dismissed when they said they would have difficulty being impartial.
Joselo Lucero of Patchogue, Lucero's brother, attended jury selection with a friend. Lucero said he is working on getting a visa for his mother and sister in Ecuador to attend the trial. "This is really important for me and for my family," he said.
"No matter what I have to do, whatever it takes, I want to be here, because I deserve justice and my brother deserves justice," he added.
Defense attorney William Keahon of Hauppauge said, "I do believe that we will be able to get a fair and impartial jury."
Keahon said he expects that jury selection would take three to five days.
Jury selection was to resume Tuesday afternoon.
With Denise Bonilla