X-rays may determine age of alleged shooter

  • Article by: ROCHELLE OLSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 22, 2010 - 8:42 PM

Judge orders dental exam. Defense lawyer has argued that client in the triple slaying at a Somali convenience store is only 15 and shouldn't be tried as an adult.

Mahdi Ali's teeth will be X-rayed to try to determine his age when he allegedly shot three men at a south Minneapolis convenience store in January.

Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill on Thursday granted a prosecution motion to take the X-rays. The defense agreed with the idea.

Defense lawyer Frederick Goetz told Cahill that Ali was born in Kenya on Aug. 25, 1995, making him 15 at the time of the killings, not 16 as prosecutors have said. Goetz has argued that Ali's previously stated birthday was a guess.

The difference will determine whether he is tried as an adult or as a juvenile and could determine whether he spends the rest of his life in prison. As part of the debate over his age, a hearing is scheduled Aug. 3 that may include witnesses testifying for Ali on video from South Africa.

Both Ali and his friend Ahmed Ali, now 18, were indicted in February on six murder counts. On Tuesday, Ahmed Ali pleaded guilty in deal that could allow his release near his 30th birthday. He didn't have a gun and was in the back of the store attempting to rob customers when Mahdi Ali shot the others, according to documents and his own statements.

Cahill told Goetz and prosecutors Bob Streitz and Chuck Weber to present briefs on the age issue on May 13 and responses by May 27. Cahill wants to know what burden of proof should be used in determining how old Ali is.

Streitz told the judge that prosecutors are likely to oppose taking testimony from South Africa.

Goetz has argued that Mahdi Ali's real name is Khalid Arrasi. Goetz said after the hearing that his client was born in a Somali refugee camp in Kenya, then given to an aunt and uncle who raised him until his mother was healthy enough to take care of him. Genetic tests showed that the woman with whom he has lived in Minnesota and who was believed to be his grandmother actually is his mother, Goetz said.

Another reason Mahdi Ali's age is important is that the U.S. Supreme Court is pondering whether it's constitutional to sentence a 15-year-old to a life term without the possibility of release. Cahill, however, noted that the high court is expected to decide that matter before July 1 -- long before Ali's trial.

Rochelle Olson • 612-673-1747

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