They may have his alleged confession but, the Shelby County DA's office is negotiating a plea bargain that would avoid a trial for accused teenage murderer Eduardo Marmalejo.
A criminal court judge gave prosecutors and his attorney, Leslie Ballin, until August 19th to come up with a settlement.
Both sides agree there are so many variables involved in the case, a trial could prove unpredictable.
If the unthinkable hadn't happened, seventeen year old Eduardo Marmalejo would have joined thousands of other students participating in an exciting new school year in Shelby County today. Instead, he was led into a courtroom in shackles to get a brief tutorial on a subject matter he's been immersed in for the last two years; how to survive in the criminal justice system.
They are two experienced trial lawyers fully knowledgeable of the laws of probability in the criminal justice system but defense attorney, Leslie Ballin and county Assistant District Attorney Reggie Henderson are aware the legal system can also provide "wiggle room" for negotiated settlements. Which, in the strange case of accused teenage first degree murderer, Eduardo Marmajelo, might create too much of a "roll of the dice" risk for both sides at a potential trial.
Marmalejo's attorney Leslie Ballin says, "Too many variables. Too many uncertainties at this point for me to tell you what's going to happen. I can only tell you that both sides are talking."
Henderson said, "I really don't know. We're certainly prepared for a trial. Mr. Ballin, I know, knows what the options are if it comes to that. We're more than ready to have a trial."
In a brief appearance before Criminal Court Judge Mark Ward on Monday, the seventeen-year old at the center of the case seemed more interested in looking for who was in the back of the courtroom than listening to the proceedings in front of him. It's been nearly two years since the former student at Memphis Junior Academy allegedly told MPD investigators all the grisly details of brutally stabbing the school's principal, Suzette York, nine times in her throat and neck. A crime committed by a juvenile that appeared carried out with an adult precision.
"He gave the investigative people specific information on how he did it, when he did it and how long he'd been planning to do it," says Henderson.
However, almost immediately after his arrest and the eventual court-ordered decision he could be tried as an adult, Marmalejo's mental state was fodder for a myriad of psychological tests. His first mental evaluation surmised he was locked in a fantasy world in which he believed he was a soldier or a ninja warrior. The distant interest he paid at Monday's hearing seemed to bolster Ballin's claim his client still doesn't comprehend the gravity of what he faces in the legal system. "I have been concerned from the very beginning about his ability to understand, stay focused, as to what is said in the courtroom, especially during long court days. At this point we do not have a defense of sanity or insanity. There are no issues of competency. That is he is competent to face the charges," says Ballin.
Judge Ward agreed to give both sides until August 19th to reach an agreement on a settlement. With a teenage client whose mind may eternally be locked in a fantasy world and the potential for a sympathetic jury who might be hesitant to slap him in the face with the reality of a guilty first degree murder conviction who wants to spin the wheel on the laws of probability in a courtroom?
We want to know what you think. Which institution, prison or a mental facility is more fitting for teenager Eduardo Marmalejo?