The attorney for a 13-year-old boy accused of taking part in the slaying of Barnard College student Tessa Majors said Tuesday that video that police have produced as a key piece of evidence does not show her client committing a crime.
Calling what happened to Majors a "terrible tragedy," Legal Aid lawyer Hannah Kaplan said during a probable cause hearing in Manhattan Family Court in New York that the video from a security booth in Morningside Park does not implicate the teenager.
"The evidence here is the opposite," Kaplan said. "The only testimony connecting my client to anything related to Miss Majors' death and alleged robbery is that at some point my client picked up a knife and handed it to someone. That is refuted by the description of the surveillance video."
Kaplan was referring to New York police Detective Wilfredo Acevedo's testimony that there was video of the robbing and the stabbing and that it did not show the suspect robbing or stabbing Majors.
Acevedo also told the court that the teen insisted during his interrogation that he did not know that his friends were planning to rob Majors.
But Assistant Corporation Counsel Rachel Glantz, acting as prosecutor, told the court that the suspect implicated himself when he admitted to detectives that he and two other teens were in the park to rob somebody.
"He described how they followed a white male but for whatever reason they decided not to rob him," Glantz said. "Then he told detectives that he later picked up a knife and handed it to another individual. It is reasonable to infer that when the knife was picked up that it would be used in the course of a robbery."
Glantz then urged Judge Carol Goldstein to deny Kaplan's request for the teen be released into the custody of his aunt and uncle, who were in the courtroom.
Goldstein said the suspect was a "threat to public safety" and ordered him to be remanded.
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Meanwhile, investigators were still searching for a 14-year-old who was supposed to come in for questioning on Monday but was last seen running from a car in Harlem.
A 14-year-old boy was brought in for questioning over the weekend, but it is unclear whether he is the same teen who fled.
The 13-year-old suspect walked into the courtroom in handcuffs, dressed in sweatpants and a sweater. He has been charged with second-degree murder, robbery and a weapons offense.
Answering a question from Goldstein, the underage suspect told the judge his name but otherwise stayed silent as Glantz and Kaplan made their cases.
Majors, 18, was stabbed to death Wednesday in the park near Barnard College. Police believe the 13-year-old suspect was one of the three teens who were trying to rob Majors.
When one of the teens put Majors in a chokehold and the others began rifling through her pockets, Majors fought back and bit one of the robbers' fingers, police said.
In the ensuing struggle, Majors was stabbed repeatedly in the torso, police said. She was able to stagger out of the park but died at a nearby hospital.
Police have not said why Majors was in the park, but a top police union official sparked a firestorm of criticism Sunday by suggesting on a radio show that she had been there to buy marijuana. The official, Ed Mullins, president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, later apologized and said he had not intended to blame Majors for her own death.