On the day Jeffrey Conroy's attorney asked a jury to find the Medford teen not guilty of murdering Marcelo Lucero, the Ecuadorean immigrant's family Monday planned to quietly celebrate what would have been his 39th birthday.
Speaking to reporters for the first time since testimony began nearly five weeks ago, Lucero's brother, Joselo, said he and his sister Isabel and their mother Rosario would take time to "remember the good things" about Marcelo, who was 37 when he died early on Nov. 9, 2008.
But their fond memories were tempered by anguish as they recalled Marcelo's death, allegedly at the hands of Conroy.
"It's 16 months I've been hearing over and over how the murder happened, how they killed him, how they attacked him," Joselo Lucero said. "Sometimes I lost my faith."
Earlier Monday, a consortium of immigrant-rights activists called on Suffolk officials to establish a permanent hate-crimes commission and promote improved relations between Latinos and non-Latinos.
"A year and a half after Marcelo Lucero's death, Suffolk County still has done nothing to address the climate of fear that immigrants experience here in Suffolk County," said Luis Valenzuela, executive director of the Long Island Immigrant Alliance.
County Executive Steve Levy's office released a statement Monday saying the county is promoting tolerance programs and the police department is offering Spanish lessons and hate-crime investigations training to officers.
Joselo Lucero said he sympathized with Conroy, now 19, and the other six boys charged in his brother's death, all of whom were teenagers when Lucero was killed. But he said he remains angry about Marcelo's death.
"We don't deserve to be treated like dogs. We deserve to be treated like human beings," Joselo Lucero said. "My brother . . . got killed for no reason."
With Jennifer Barrios
Addressing racial tensions
Since the murder of Marcelo Lucero in 2008, Suffolk County has made several moves to address growing racial tensions:
Created a hate crime victim's advocate last year who works with the police department to act as a liaison between the police and victims of hate crimes.
Added an extra foot patrol officer in Patchogue, as well as a special assistant to the police commissioner on Hispanic affairs.
Conducted outreach efforts to victims of crimes, emphasizing that police will not question victims about their citizenship status.
Developed anti-hate, anti-bullying educational materials for students.
Begun an eight-hour course for police supervisors and investigators on investigating hate crimes.