McTear Admits Murder, Gets Maximum Sentence
Ortralla Mosley's killer gets the maximum sentence.
District Judge Jeanne Meurer on June 5 handed down a 40-year determinate sentence to 16-year-old Marcus McTear, charged with the murder of his former girlfriend, 15-year-old Ortralla Mosley -- and has asked for a hearing to determine whether McTear's parents should shoulder any of the blame for their son's actions.
McTear was charged with stabbing Mosley to death on March 28 in a Reagan High School hallway, one day after Mosley ended the couple's six-month relationship. Prosecutors sought to certify McTear to stand trial as an adult; on May 19, after two days of emotional testimony, Meurer refused and has retained jurisdiction over the case in juvenile court. (For more on this, see "A Shining Star Goes Dark," May 16.)
The sentence came during a surprise court appearance Thursday afternoon during which McTear pleaded "true" to the charges against him -- the juvenile-court equivalent of guilty. Defense attorney John Evans said the plea was an unexpected "turn of events" and that he had counseled his client against it, suggesting instead that McTear retain his right to a jury trial. But Evans said that McTear felt that the true plea was the right thing to do. "Marcus took a very bold and brave step here today," Evans said. He said that McTear told him that he wanted to enter the plea in order to help the "community to begin to heal, for Mrs. [Carolyn] Mosley [Samuel] to begin healing, and for him to get on with what he needs to do," he said. Evans said he considered the move bold in part because prosecutors had not offered McTear any deal, meaning that the teenager would be taking a chance on what sentence Meurer would impose.
As it turned out, Meurer imposed the maximum, a 40-year determinate sentence. McTear will be confined to a Texas Youth Commission facility where, if he successfully completes TYC's rehabilitation programs, he could be eligible for parole in just three years. Alternatively, under the determinate sentencing law, if McTear fails to complete the TYC programs and does not qualify for parole by the time he turns 21, he could be transferred to an adult facility within the Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice, where he would serve out the remainder of the 40-year sentence.
Even though McTear is on his way to TYC, his parents Dorothy and Joseph McTear will be back in court for a hearing to determine if they bear any responsibility for their son's actions. After Meurer delivered McTear's sentence, Carolyn Mosley Samuel exercised her "right of elocution" to address her daughter's boyfriend turned killer. "I still love you baby, I just hate what you did," an emotional Mosley Samuel told McTear as he bowed his head and shut his eyes. "What happened that day to make you do that?" she asked. "All I've got to say to you is, Marcus, get yourself right. ... Love yourself first; find yourself." Mosley Samuel then turned her attention to his parents, with whom she had met just two days before Ortralla's death to discuss the kids' failing relationship.
"We could've helped these babies," she told them. "I pleaded, 'Big Joe, let's get them some help,'" she said. "I'm more upset with y'all than I am with him." As she finished, court observers were jolted by a loud "No!" from Joseph McTear -- an outburst that netted him a steely gaze from Meurer and the promise of a future court proceeding. "You need to learn to control yourself, Mr. McTear," Meurer said. She noted that during all of McTear's court appearances, Dorothy McTear sat between her husband and her son and that she spent most of her time consoling her husband, not Marcus. That "told me a lot," she said.
Meurer asked Assistant District Attorney Melissa Douma to file with the court a "54.041 motion" -- a section of the Texas Family Code that allows Meurer to hold a hearing to determine whether Dorothy and Joseph McTear share culpability for Mosley's death. Meurer could order them to attend counseling or mandate other social services. "There is another child in that home," Meurer said, "and you will engage in services because I do find that you have some responsibility regarding this matter."
According to court records, Joseph McTear has had his own share of trouble with the law. In 1981 he was convicted of aggravated assault after robbing a man at gunpoint. In 1995 he was convicted of injury to a child and placed on probation for beating Marcus' brother. In 2001 he was convicted of making a terroristic threat and served 16 days in jail after calling BFI Waste Processing and Disposal and threatening to blow up three gas pumps.