By Christina Rodriguez and Alshawn Rushing
The Brooklyn hate crime trial of two men, accused of beating to death an Ecuadorian immigrant who they thought was gay began today.
In their opening statements, prosecutors recapped what happened the night in December, 2008 when Jose Sucuzhanay was attacked and beaten to death while walking with his brother Romel in Bushwick.
The prosecution alleged that several witnesses heard the two defendants, Keith Phoenix and Hakim Scott refer to the brothers, as “faggots” and used ethnic slurs. The bothers were embracing after a night of partying.
“This is not an accident, not poor judgment, not even a fight gone out of hand,” said Assistant DA Josh Handshaft in his opening statement.
Taxi driver Davi Almonte testifying through a Spanish interpreter said he had parked his cab across the street from where the beating took place and that the beating was so brutal he had to turn his head.
“I didn’t want to see the head bleeding or explode, “ said Almonte.
When asked why he didn’t originally report the crime, Almonte said “I didn’t have a telephone on me, and I didn’t want to get involved in this.” Friends then urged him to contact the police.
Prosecutors said they intend to call a number of witnesses, including the cousin of Phoenix, who was at the scene when the assault occurred.
Jose was hit over the head with a bottle, and severely beaten with an aluminum bat. He died of his injuries a few days later. Romel managed to escape with minor injuries.
Scott and Phoenix are charged with second-degree murder as a hate crime.
The defense argues that the incident was merely a a late-night brawl among four men, all of whom had been partying and that the defendants did not intend to seriously injure anyone. They each have separate juries and defense attorneys.
The defendants are charged with second degree murder as a hate crime. Both men face life in prison if convicted.