News (USA)

NYC jury to weigh whether shooting of gay man was hate crime

NEW YORK (AP) — When Elliot Morales was arrested for shooting a gay man in the head after taunting him on a street in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, he seemed like the archetype of an unrepentant bigot.

Police recorded him laughing wildly as he described the killing.

“Diagnosis dead, doctor,” he quipped.

A more complicated portrait has emerged in a bizarre trial that concluded Thursday. Morales, who represented himself, admits pulling the trigger but says he acted in self-defense and can’t be guilty of a hate crime because he is bisexual. His star witness was a transgender woman who said she was his ex-lover.

Jurors will begin deliberations Tuesday in the case against Morales, 36, who is charged with murder as a hate crime and weapons possession in the shooting death of Mark Carson on May 18, 2013.

The shooting happened a few blocks from the Stonewall Inn, the site of 1969 riots that helped give rise to the gay rights movement.

Carson, 32, and his roommate, Danny Robinson, were passing in front of a pizza parlor shortly after midnight when Morales, witnesses said, called out to the two men, uttering a slur and saying they looked like “gay wrestlers.”

The two men confronted Morales, and he walked around a corner as they followed, witnesses testified. Morales pulled a revolver, shot Carson in the face at close range and then ran. He was arrested moments later.

The killing made headlines and spurred a rally, partly because it came amid a spate of anti-gay hate crimes during spring 2013.

Morales, who spent 11 years in prison for armed robbery, rejected four court-appointed attorneys before deciding to represent himself at his trial.

That gave rise to the spectacle of Morales, the killer, cross-examining Robinson — the grieving survivor.

During the courtroom confrontation, Morales blamed the two gay men for the conflict that led to the shooting. He suggested they should have ignored the taunts and walked away. Instead, the two men followed him around a corner.

“You could’ve avoided all of this from escalating to the level it did, had you and Mr. Carson just went along with your own business,” Morales said to Robinson in court.

Robinson bowed his head and replied: “That is so offensive.”

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