The first witness was questioned Tuesday in the trial of two men accused in the beating death of an Ecuadorian immigrant in Brooklyn.
Keith Phoenix, 30, and Hakim Scott, 26, face possible life sentences in connection with the death of Jose Sucuzhañay, 31, who was killed in Bushwick in December of 2008.
The trial is featuring two juries, one for each defendant.
Both men are charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter as hate crimes. They are also charged with assault as a hate crime, attempted assault as a hate crime and criminal possession of a weapon.
Prosecutors allege that Phoenix and Scott beat Sucuzhañay with a bat and a broken bottle, leaving him in a pool of blood to die on a Brooklyn street. They say the defendants shouted anti-Hispanic and anti-gay slurs during the attack because they believed Sucuzhañay, who was walking arm-in-arm with his brother Romel prior to the attack, was gay.
Romel Sucuzhañay escaped from the incident with minor injuries.
The first witness to take the stand was the New York City police officer who responded to the scene. He testified that he saw a Hispanic man on the street, seriously bleeding from his head and having trouble breathing.
The other witness was a cab driver who saw the attack and wrote down the license plate number of the alleged attackers as they drove away. Prosecutors say that led to the arrest of the defendants.
Prosecutors say Scott admitted to police that he was the once who broke a bottle over Sucuzhañay's head. They say Phoenix beat Sucuzhañay so hard that his skull cracked open.
Defense lawyers argue that the actions of the two defendants should not be linked together and that the jury should keep an open mind.
"It's an event that happened, unfortunately, at 3 o'clock on a Sunday morning, after people have been drinking all night, and that has a serious effect on what happened here," said Philip Smallman, Phoenix's attorney. "That is not consistent with the [district attorney's] theory or the prosecution's.
One of the defendant's cousins, who allegedly saw the beating, is set to testify for the prosecution Wednesday.
Sucuzhañay's family members are trying to secure visas to attend the trial. Members of the Ecuadorian government were in the court today.
"It's incredible that somebody was walking on the street and just because you have different sexual orientation and maybe because they're also Hispanic or immigrants, somebody wants to kill you," said Ecuadorian General Consul Jorge Lopez.
"We're very optimistic that all of the evidence that's going to be presented. They mentioned [there was] more than one witness," said Pablo Calle of the National Department of Migration.
Meanwhile, attorneys for a Long Island teen convicted of stabbing an Ecuadorian man to death are vowing to appeal.
A Suffolk County jury yesterday found Jeffrey Conroy, 19, guilty of manslaughter as a hate crime in the November 2008 death of 37-year-old Marcelo Lucero.
The jury acquitted him of murder.
Prosecutors say the jury delivered a fair verdict.
Conroy faces eight to 25 years in prison when he is sentenced next month.