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Judge sets murder trial date for teen boy in Tessa Majors stabbing death

NYPD officers on horseback patrol on Dec. 26

NYPD officers on horseback patrol on Dec. 26 the site where 18-year-old Barnard College freshman Tessa Majors was killed in Manhattan's Morningside Park. Credit: Getty Images/David Dee Delgado

A 13-year-old boy being held on felony murder charges in the stabbing death of Barnard College freshman Tessa Majors last month will stand trial on March 16 in Family Court, a judge ruled Thursday.

While setting a trial date, Manhattan Family Court Judge Carole Goldstein also set aside nearly a dozen days in February for pretrial hearings on the admissibility of evidence.

Legal Aid Society attorney Hannah Kaplan unsuccessfully argued that the juvenile, who has been in custody since Dec. 12, be released. Kaplan told the judge the boy had a good record while being detained, an 80% school attendance record and was not a risk to flee.

Goldstein, while acknowledging that the teen had a generally good record while in custody, kept him in juvenile detention because his circumstances had not changed. Rachel Glantz, attorney for the city corporation counsel that acts as prosecutor in juvenile cases, said the boy did have one verbal altercation with a detention center official.

The 13-year-old appeared in court dressed in a dark winter jacket with its hood pulled back. An uncle who is his legal guardian and an aunt sat in the spectator row behind him. While attorneys conferenced with Goldstein in a backroom over scheduling, the teen sat at the defense table, sometimes staring at his hands and other times resting his head on the table. The only words he spoke were to confirm his name and age.

Majors died from wounds she received during a Dec. 11 robbery allegedly committed by the 13-year-old and two 14-year-old boys in Morningside Park, the NYPD said. Police questioned and released the 14-year-old teens. A state court judge ordered one 14-year-old boy to give a DNA sample and other forensic material. The results of the forensic tests are expected this week, according to police.

Goldstein was expected to rule Thursday on the admissibility of the video statement the teen gave to the NYPD in which the boy reportedly admitted that he was one of three teens who were looking to rob people the night they confronted Majors.

Instead Goldstein scheduled the February hearings. One will determine whether the 13-year-old was given proper legal warnings when he was questioned by officers in the presence of his uncle, the boy's legal guardian. Another will be about the admissibility of physical evidence. A third hearing will look into whether any other legal issues would prohibit the admissibility of evidence, a process known as a Dunaway hearing.

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