Over the weekend, a jury found a black man guilty of second degree manslaughter and criminal possession of a weapon in the August 2006 shooting of a 17-year-old on Long Island. The defendant, John White, grabbed a pistol when a group of teens (who were white) swarmed around his home. The teens were angry at White's son and in the standoff, White shot Daniel Cicciaro in the face.
White had claimed Cicciaro lunged for his gun, which then went off accidentally. But prosecutors argued that White could have simply closed his door and called the police. Cicciaro and other teens had a fight with White's son Aaron, after mistakenly thinking that Aaron had threatened (on an online chatroom) to rape a friend - a threat that was actually created by another person pretending to be Aaron White.
The trial was full of intense emotions, as White's lawyer claimed that the teens yelled racial epithets and had formed a "modern day lynch mob." During the trial, the NY Times noted how "Each family was buffered by intimidating groups: the White family by members of the Nation of Islam and the Cicciaros by burly men with shaved heads and biker clothing."
Cicciaro's parents, who cried when the verdict was read, now tells Newsday that they forgive White. But they are upset they about being portrayed as skinhead. White, who is free until sentencing, told reporters, "I am not inhuman. I have a very deep feeling for this young man and his family."
The jury was made up of ten white members, one Hispanic member and one black member. On Friday, after deliberating since Monday December 17, they had told Suffolk County Court Judge Barbara Kahn they were "hopelessly deadlocked," prompting Kahn to urge them to continue their deliberations. Jurors revealed their verdict on Saturday, and though some claimed they were not rushed, one, a white man from South Africa,tells the Post he wanted to acquit but succumbed to pressure from the other jurors and wasn't fond of jury duty, "You're driving an hour to spend eight or nine hours with 10 hostile people. It's not a pleasant experience."
White's lawyers have suggested they may appeal the verdict on the grounds of the jury's make-up. One told the Times, "If the tables had been turned and there were five black individuals at the foot of the driveway of a white homeowner and they were screaming those things, you have to wonder if we would have had the same outcome.” And the Reverend Al Shaprton said, "Are we sending a signal that if you're black in this country and you defend your home, that's different than if you're white?"
Newsday has extensive coverage of the trial, including articles, photographs and video.