Hate Crime Trial Shines Spotlight on Violence Against Latinos

When Marcelo Lucero was murdered in March of 2009, his mother traveled from Ecuador to the US for the first time to ensure that her son murderers were brought to justice. She may finally get what she came for, although more than a year later, as the defense for boy accused of his murder rested last week.

Jeff Conroy, 19, the teenager who stands accused of delivering the fatal stab wound to Lucero's chest, maintains his innocence. He claims that his friend Christopher Overton, 17, is the one who actually stabbed Lucero and that he handed the knife over to Conroy saying, "I can't get in trouble for this," since Overton was already facing burglary charges from a previous offense. Although not irrelevant, the fact remains that the group of seven teens (six White and one Black and Hispanic, ironically) went out that evening to engage in an activity called "beaner hopping," in which they sought out Latinos in order to beat them up.

The case against the teens accused of the hate crime has served to shine a spotlight on the recent surge in race related crimes against Latinos. As recently as this past weekend, a group of four Staten Island teenagers were arrested for attacking 26-year-old Mexican, Rodolfo Olmedo, as he was on his way home from work at 4:30AM. The four assailants (three Black and one Latino) are now facing charges including robbery and assault as hate crimes.

The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that the number of hate groups has risen 35 percent since 2000 in the United States, and the Anti-Defamation League reports that extremist groups are using racism and xenophobia to incite violence against Latinos across the country.

"This type of a crime does not represent Staten Island. It does not represent New York," said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. "It represents the narrow minds of a few hateful bigots."