A jury has been selected for the trial of Jeffrey Conroy - accused of fatally stabbing an Ecuadorean immigrant in Patchogue - and opening arguments are expected to begin in State Supreme Court in Riverhead on Wednesday.
The five women and seven men were picked following eight days of grueling selection in which nearly 400 jurors were excused one after another.
Conroy, 19, of Medford, is charged with second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter, both as hate crimes, for the Nov. 8, 2008, killing of Marcelo Lucero.
Conroy is one of seven former Patchogue-Medford High School students charged in connection with the killing, but the only one facing the most serious charges.
The jurors were subjected to extensive questioning from State Supreme Court Justice Robert W. Doyle on everything from their experience with police to their views on immigration.
Most were excused because they said they had formed opinions on the case because of the extensive media coverage. Others were excused because of connections to law enforcement or their sympathy for the defendant.
One woman excused herself after saying she was Conroy's high school teacher, waving and smiling at him on her way to the panel. Another man said he was a business owner in Medford and had Latino employees who played soccer with Lucero.
Others cited strong opinions on illegal immigration that could leave them unable to fairly judge testimony from undocumented immigrants - which Assistant District Attorney Megan O'Donnell has said is expected during the trial.
"Why are illegal aliens allowed to testify?" one prospective juror asked Doyle before being excused. "That's OK in the eyes of the government?"
"If these people are going to testify, are they going to be arrested after they testify being that they are illegal?" asked another prospective juror, who was summarily excused.
O'Donnell said though the selection process was lengthy, it did not exceed a three-week record for picking a jury in Suffolk.
Both defense attorney William Keahon and O'Donnell said they expected the process to be long given the publicity the case has received. "I believe that we have a great cross-section of the community, and I believe we have a fair and impartial jury," Keahon said.
Jury selection for four alternates will begin Monday.
Doyle has said the trial is expected to take six to eight weeks.