A man who fatally shot an unarmed gay man in New York City three years ago was convicted of murder as a hate crime Wednesday, the New York Times reported. Elliot Morales, 36, will face 20 years-to-life in prison for the murder of Mark Carson on May 18, 2013, in the West Village.
The conviction comes after two weeks of testimony in State Supreme Court, followed by two days of jury deliberation. Morales represented himself during the trial and said on the witness stand that he did not hold any prejudice toward gay people.
The case received significant attention at the time of the shooting, and charges initially showed that Morales repeatedly told police he shot the 32-year-old Carson. Over the two weeks of testimony, multiple witnesses testified that they saw Morales shoot Carson in the face after calling Carson and his friend, Danny Robinson, “faggots” and “gay wrestlers.”
Still, the shooter claimed he acted in self-defense because he thought the two men were about to attack him. He said he pulled his own gun after seeing Robinson bring out what looked like a black pistol, the New York Times reported. “I just reacted,” Morales said during his closing argument. “This was not a deliberate act.”
Throughout the trial, Morales said he was not motivated by bias and asserted that he is bisexual. However, prosecutors said the incident began when Morales encountered Carson and Robinson after going on a violent anti-gay rant in a restaurant on Barrow Street, where he threatened a bartender.
“This was bigotry, and this was unjustifiable rage,” Shannon Lucey, the lead prosecutor, said at the end of the trial. “The defendant was able to shoot Mark Carson over nothing because Mark Carson was nothing to the defendant. Mark Carson was nothing to the defendant but a subhuman fag.”
The nature of Morales’ sexuality became an important point in the trial, as he told the jury he had sexual relationships with transgender men and called one of his sexual partners as a witness. However, Lucey and the prosecution countered this defense by arguing that Morales was conflicted about his sexuality and his “self-loathing” contributed to his anti-gay sentiment.
“The defendant is self-loathing; he wants no one to know or to see who he is,” Lucey said during her arguments. “He has a lot of self-loathing issues, and that came out when he saw Mark Carson and Danny Robinson being who they are.”