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Conroy attorney cautions jury not to be swayed

William Keahon, defense attorney for Jeffrey Conroy, addresses

William Keahon, defense attorney for Jeffrey Conroy, addresses the media at Riverhead Criminal Court. (March 2, 2010) Photo Credit: James Carbone

The attorney for a teenager on trial in the fatal stabbing an Ecuadorean immigrant cautioned jurors Monday not to let publicity about the case influence them, emphasizing that not one prosecution witness had recalled seeing the defendant wield the saw-toothed knife identified as the murder weapon.

Defense attorney William Keahon took three hours to review the testimony of 25 prosecution witnesses during the four-week hate crime trial. None, Keahon said, could pin the Nov. 8, 2008, slaying of Marcelo Lucero, 37, on his client, Jeffrey Conroy, 19.

"Not one witness testified that they saw anyone stab Mr. Lucero," Keahon told the jury.

But, Keahon said, "There has been so much publicity [about the trial] that you almost feel you have to convict."

Keahon urged jurors not to bow to pressure as they consider whether Conroy committed second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter as hate crimes.

Conroy wore a dark suit with a blue shirt Monday; Keahon flashed a smile at him as he concluded his summation. Conroy and six other teens have been implicated in the death of Lucero, who would have turned 39 Monday. But only Conroy is charged with murder and manslaughter. Prosecutors say Lucero's death followed a crime spree by the teenagers who targeted Hispanics and attacked them.

Last week, Keahon tried to pin the killing on one of Conroy's acquaintances, Christopher Overton of East Patchogue, one of those who accosted Lucero.

Conroy testified last week that Overton stabbed Lucero and asked him to take the knife. Conroy said he took the knife because Overton couldn't be found with it - he was awaiting sentencing on burglary charges in a 2007 East Patchogue home invasion case in which a man had been killed.

Keahon said prosecutors had not proved Conroy killed Lucero, nor had they proved he intended to kill Lucero. Instead, he said, Conroy rode along with the other teens in a sport utility vehicle, hoping they would drop him off at a birthday sleepover for one of his friends.

Keahon told jurors they could consider lesser charges such as second-degree manslaughter. He also questioned whether the emergency medical care Lucero received was adequate.

Keahon said even if Conroy had stabbed Lucero, the wound to his upper right chest was not enough to kill him. Slowly, Keahon moved his hand over his own upper right chest - following a path similar to the one taken by the blade that killed Lucero.

Prosecutor Megan O'Donnell's summation is expected Tuesday.

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