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Judge to rule Jan. 2 on boy's statement in Barnard College student's killing

NYPD officers at the entrance of Morningside Park

NYPD officers at the entrance of Morningside Park in Manhattan on Dec. 12 after the fatal stabbing of Barnard College freshman Tessa Majors the night before. Credit: Getty Images / Jeenah Moon

A Manhattan Family Court judge said Monday she would rule Jan. 2 whether a 13-year-old boy's statement to police in the killing of a Barnard College freshman can be used as evidence.

During a brief procedural hearing, Judge Carole Goldstein gave Legal Aid Society Attorneys for the teenager, whose name is being withheld because he is a juvenile, and New York City's Corporation Counsel, until the week after Christmas to file legal papers in connection with the defense omnibus motion in the case.  

The NYPD charged has charged the boy with felony murder and other crimes in the Dec. 11 stabbing death of Tessa Majors, 18, as she walked in Morningside Park after dark. The boy was taken into custody Dec. 12 and gave statements that police said showed two other teenagers were involved in the attack, authorities said.

While Legal Aid attorney Hannah Kaplan didn’t disclose in court what she would request in her filing,  so-called omnibus motions by defense lawyers typically challenge whether a confession was voluntary. The motions can also request defense access to scientific evidence and any witness statements.

Earlier, Kaplan told Goldstein that any expert witness used by the defense, presumably to offer an opinion on whether NYPD investigators coerced the boy to confess, would keep the contents of a videotaped interview secret under a protective order. The boy is currently in custody.

Under state law, children under 16-years-old but at least 7 years old have their cases heard in Family Court with the city Corporation Counsel acting as prosecutor, according to the court officials.

The 13-year-old suspect had a guardian present, as required by law, when he was questioned and offered legal representation, according to NYPD Chief of Detectives Rodney Harrison. In a Family Court proceeding last week, according to reports, Legal Aid attorneys alleged that NYPD Det. Wilfredo Acevedo yelled at and hounded the teenager.

Over the weekend, the NYPD took the unusual step of releasing three photographs of another teenager being sought in the Majors case. The teenager wasn’t named but his images have been widely circulated in the hopes he can be located for questioning.  A 14-year-old was released earlier after questioning.

Investigators are constrained from releasing too much information about the Majors case by new laws governing the arrest of minors. NYPD officials wouldn’t comment about whether they have recovered forensic evidence such as DNA from the Majors's body or clothing.  Majors, a native of Charlottesville, Virginia, was repeatedly stabbed as she tried to resist her attackers, police said.

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