Parallels between film director Ava DuVernay’s Netflix drama When They See Us and a recent New York City murder allegedly involving several teenagers and a Barnard College coed are already being drawn by major media.
Tessa Majors, age 18, was stabbed to death in Morningside Park on Dec. 11 in what police claim was a robbery. The park is located near the campuses of Barnard College and Columbia University in New York. Video footage from the scene aided police in arresting a 13-year-old boy and has led to the questioning of two other 14-year-olds.
The investigation of the murder is expected to heat up on Thursday at a court hearing in New York on statements given to police by the 13-year old. The case also will gain momentum next week when DNA results are expected to be revealed.
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A key to the case may be DNA evidence. Police sources have claimed Majors bit one of her assailants, and samples have also been taken from her clothing.
Because the case involves three teens as potential suspects, DuVernay’s When They See Us looms large. In that 1989 case, five teens were incarcerated for their alleged assault on a Central Park jogger, but later had their case vacated and won civil settlements.
So far, media covering the Majors case ranging from the New York Times and New York Daily News to CBS News and the Columbia Spectator have drawn parallels between the Majors and Central Park Five cases.
DuVernay herself has taken note, retweeting comment from one former police official on her official Twitter account: “Certainly, in the investigative steps, the department will be more cautious because of the attention that was paid to the Central Park Five — everything they do is under the microscope,” she tweeted.
NYPD Chief of Detectives Rodney Harrison has also acknowledged the concerns over the treatment of the suspects. The questioning and release of two teens has raised eyebrows in some cases. “Although he has since been released to the custody of his attorneys, the investigation remains very active. Our detectives are the best at what they do and are committed to finding justice for all parties involved.”
At present, one 13-year-old suspect has been charged with felony murder in the killing. His case is being processed in Family Court and a further hearing is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 2. At that hearing, a judge will rule on statements allegedly given by the 13-year-old that implicated himself and the two other 14-year-olds. That decision and the DNA results should determine whether the case moves forward, or puts police back to square one in solving the murder. For now, the case is drawing close scrutiny from many quarters anxious to see fairness and justice.
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