(CN) – The U.S. Supreme Court has taken up a case where a Massachusetts teen confessed to murder after his mother dragged the boy in tears to the police station.
It says 15-year-old Germaine Rucker was shot in the head and back on Aug. 10, 2003, after a group of males confronted him outside a house in Dorchester where Rucker had been selling jewelry charms.
Near the scene, Boston police found a Detroit Tigers baseball cap. A witness said the hat had fallen off the head of the young man who pulled a pistol from his pants leg.
Kentel Myrone Weaver, 16, had been wearing such a cap two weeks earlier when arrested on a drug offense, and the hat band later tested positive for Weaver’s DNA.
The record shows that Weaver’s mother was struck by the evidence against her son when police came to her home in Roxbury on the night of Aug. 26 to question him.
After detectives left, and Mrs. Weaver raised some questions of her own, the matriarch held a marathon prayer circle and hauled the crying boy over to the police station at about 12:30 in the morning on Aug. 27.
“I shot Germaine Rucker,” the teen confessed, before the detective could even finish reading the Miranda warning.
Weaver was convicted of murder in 2006 after the Suffolk County Superior Court refused to suppress his statements to police.
The teen failed to show on appeal that his attorney’s failure to consult with a mental health expert amounted to ineffective assistance of counsel.
Weaver also claims that a competent attorney might have been found an expert to testify about whether the confession was voluntary or coerced.
In rejecting Weaver’s appeal last year, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court found that juries hardly need an expert witness to understand the mother-child dynamic.
“The likelihood of a child being influenced by a parent is not a matter outside the common understanding of the average juror, nor is the proposition that a parent may exert pressure on his or her child a novel one,” Associate Justice Robert Cordy wrote for the court.
Mayer Brown petitioned the Supreme Court to take up Weaver’s case. Michael Kimberly, an attorney with the Washington, D.C., firm was cautiously optimistic about his client’s chances.
“There are no sure things in any case,” Kimberly said. “We’re obviously hopeful and we’re heartened by the court’s grant of certiorari. Now our job is to persuade the court that we’re right on the merits.”
Kimberly’s co-counsel Ruth Greenberg noted that they are also fighting the trial judge’s decision to close the courtroom to the public during jury empanelment, a process that took two days.
“We’re confident that the court will say that trials cannot be conducted in secret,” Greenberg said.
The 2016 ruling notes that trial counsel lodged no objection to the closed courtroom, which began on the first day of jury selection when the 90 prospective jurors took every available seat in the courtroom.
A document on the high court’s website notes that the question presented asks “whether a defendant asserting ineffective assistance that results in a structural error must, in addition to demonstrating deficient performance, show that he was prejudiced by counsel’s ineffectiveness, as held by four circuits and five state courts of last resort; or whether prejudice is presumed in such cases, as held by four other circuits and two state high courts.”