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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

A stunning twist as Conroy testifies at trial

Jeffrey Conroy is led out of Fifth Precinct

Jeffrey Conroy is led out of Fifth Precinct in Patchogue for his arraignment in Central Islip on Nov. 10, 2008. Credit: James Carbone

Jeffrey Conroy's lawyer, William Keahon, took a big gamble by having his client take the stand and point the finger elsewhere for Marcelo Lucero's killing.

As the defendant gave his version of that infamous night in November 2008, portions of Conroy's testimony drew groans and guffaws.

"Can you believe this kid?" a spectator muttered not so quietly.

But the testimony wasn't for the crowded room of onlookers, which included Overton's mother, Denise, and his defense attorney, Paul Gianelli, as well as, for the first time ever, Lucero's mother. The tiny woman sat stone-faced, with a tissue balled in her left hand, during much of the day's proceedings.

The stunning twist in the trial was for the jury, which appeared to pay rapt attention to the back and forth, first between Conroy and his lawyer, and later between the teen and prosecutor Megan O'Donnell, whose voice more than once betrayed incredulity at what Conroy said.

They will have to determine what role the testimony plays in their deliberations.

During the hours of testimony and cross-examination, Conroy, whose face rarely varied from anything other than a neutral expression, held his ground.

He said, over and over and over again, that he had voluntarily agreed to accept a bloody knife from Overton to protect a teen he'd met only that night.

And that he'd kept his story secret from everyone but his parents and lawyer for more than a year.

But that was hardly the only twist or turn.

Conroy testified he didn't touch Lucero. And that he willingly went along with a group of "beaner-hopping" teens only because the van's driver had promised Conroy a ride to a sleepover.

Why did he leave the van the first time his friends hopped out to chase a Latino man? "To see what was going on," he testified.

Why did he get out a second time with the group that went after Lucero? "I wasn't going to wait in the car alone," he testified. Under cross-examination, Conroy testified Lucero was an aggressor in the confrontation. And that the Ecuadorean immigrant "could have walked away."

What about the statement he gave to a police detective in which Conroy admitted stabbing Lucero and admitted being part of a group hyped up about the prospect of finding Latinos to fight?

The detective wrote down things that he did not say, Conroy testified, as the prosecutor went over his five-page written statement (which Conroy also testified that he did not read) line by line. The detective correctly, however, wrote down things Conroy did say, he testified, including: "I stabbed him in the shoulder."

But that and other admissions were lies, Conroy testified. And what he was saying Thursday was the truth, he testified. And therein lies a potential dilemma for the defense.

Was Conroy lying? Or was he telling the truth, including testimony about statements he said for the first time Thursday were lies?

There's a lot resting on what the jury ultimately decides about Conroy's credibility. Including, potentially, how the teen spends the rest of his life.

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