Naked City

No Adult Trial for McTear

After two full days of heart-wrenching testimony from the parents of 15-year-old Ortralla Mosley, stabbed to death at Reagan High School March 28, and painful videos of the crime scene and of alleged killer Marcus McTear's statement to Austin police, it still seemed unclear how District Judge Jeanne Meurer would rule on prosecutors' petition to have 16-year-old McTear certified for trial as an adult. "This case has, of course, raised a lot of people's concerns," she told McTear, "and brought a lot of attention to our responsibilities to each other, to the community, and to [maintaining] schools [that are] free of violence. This has been an extremely difficult case."

While maintaining eye contact with McTear, Meurer read portions of a local seventh-grader's essay on the complexity of human nature and the propensity for violence, written for a county-sponsored program on maintaining violence-free schools. "Some people say that violence is a reaction to something, like anger is a reaction to fear," she read, before looking back up at McTear. "I've certified young people [to stand trial as an adult] for lesser crimes and younger than you are," she continued. "In my career I've seen probably five people who I've said have dead eyes. That's what caused me to transfer [them] to the adult system. Today, I refuse to certify this young man to move to the adult system."

Since Meurer has decided to retain jurisdiction over the case, McTear could face just three years of confinement in a Texas Youth Commission facility before being paroled. While prosecutors Melissa Douma and Gary Cobb looked surprised by Meurer's decision -- Douma had passionately argued that McTear had not simply killed but "assassinated" his former girlfriend in a Reagan hallway -- the ruling was well-received by Mosley's mother, Carolyn Mosley Samuel. Since her daughter's death, Mosley Samuel has maintained that what McTear needs is intensive treatment. "What people need to understand is that I am a mother," she told the Chronicle, "and that love is unconditional and that when you love unconditionally you are responsible" for what happens.

Prosecutors argued that McTear was a cold-blooded killer who premeditated his crime. He brought two 8-inch butcher knives to school the day of Mosley's murder and had confessed to another student his intention to kill her, witnesses testified. They also cited McTear's hushed, monotone retelling of the crime to APD Detective Douglas Skolaut -- in which McTear said that he initially stabbed Ortralla while she had her back to him and then chased her down, stabbing her five more times before one of the knives got stuck in her skull.

But Meurer's decision suggests instead that McTear, described by defense witnesses as a leader and intelligent student, suffers, perhaps, from an emotionally traumatic background that turned the pain of his and Ortralla's recent breakup into murderous rage. Indeed, after McTear -- clad in a hospital gown, his wrists bandaged -- finished recounting the killing to Skolaut, he looked up and asked if he could pose a question to the officer. "Is [Ortralla] going to be OK?" he asked. "Marcus, she's passed on," Skolaut tells McTear.

After a brief silence the tape shows McTear break down in tears -- a scene echoed in court after Meurer asked to have one of Ortralla's autopsy photos placed in front of him at the defense table. "That was real," said Carolyn Mosley Samuel. "And the judge did the right thing."

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