Yesterday the jury reached a verdict in the trial of Joel Herrera, a 20-year-old Latin Kings gang member who murdered Glenn Wright in the Baruch Houses on the Lower East Side almost three years ago. After less than a full day of deliberations, the jury found Herrera guilty of Manslaughter in the First Degree and Gang Assault in the First Degree, both B felonies punishable with between 8 to 25 years in prison. The murder devastated many in Wright's East Harlem community and beyond—Herrera stabbed Wright to death because he believed he was another man who robbed a relative of a fellow gangster.
Wright was 21 years old when he was fatally stabbed in the neck one September afternoon in 2009. He had stepped outside to get some fresh air and take a break from washing his grandmother's windows when a group of men approached him. Wright's father Peter witnessed his son's murder, and tackled one of the suspects after a chase. He later told the News, "I saw guys running and I ran after them. Then I saw my son. He was at the right place at the wrong time. He lost so much blood."
Wright was enrolled in Borough of Manhattan Community College, and spent most of his time caring for his teenage brother, who has Down syndrome. In high school, Wright had distinguished himself by participating in an after-school robotics team that went to the national finals. His teacher told the Times, "In this profession, you’re not supposed to have favorites, but he was probably my favorite." Wright's art work is currently on display at Strivers Gardens Gallery, included in an exhibit anchored by the works of visual artist Danny Simmons (brother of Russell Simmons, is also the co-creator and executive producer of the HBO series Def Poetry Jam).
Wright's sister Blondie Rodriguez tells us that when it was announced the jury had reached a verdict, she was "afraid to go into the courtroom. We had sat through it before, and I was afraid to be inside at that point. I just didn't know if there would be another mistrial, another hung jury, and I just couldn't bear to hear anything other than not-guilty at that point. It was a long emotional process and we were frustrated having to look at Joel the entire time. He was smug and would be winking out to the gallery and smirking. It was a game to him."
Sentencing will take place on June 26th. "I feel my brother has to be proud right now knowing we loved him so much and fought so hard for justice," Rodriguez says. "It was a burden, but we carried that burden for him because no one was more worthy of that than him. I'm relieved we got that verdict and my family can now try to find some kind of solace that we did what we had to do to make sure that his death wasn't in vain, by making sure we got that guilty verdict for the person who took his life."
Next week two other defendants will go on trial in connection with Wright's murder: Alan Silva and Jason Quijano. Silva is on trial for murder in the Second Degree (a class A felony), and Quijano faces charges of Manslaughter in the First Degree, Gang Assault in the First Degree, Assault in the First Degree (all class B felonies).