How old is Mahdi Ali?
The answer could determine whether he'll spend the rest of his life in jail if he's convicted of the three murders he is charged with. And prosecutors want to get at the answer by taking x-rays of his teeth.
Ali's accomplice in the attempted robbery, Ahmed Shari Ali, just dodged a murder rap in the case, pleading to lesser charges.
Ali's lawyer, Frederick Goetz, says Ali was 15 on January 6, the day of the Seward Market murders, which would make him a juvenile. Prosecutors say he was 16, and should be tried as an adult. They're working off of the age listed on Ali's paperwork:1/1/93. But Goetz says the January first date is a tip-off that it's an arbitrary number given to Ali by immigration officials. "That's what they do when people come in to the country and all they have is a guess as to the year of their birth," he says.
Goetz says he can trace Ali's path back through two sets of adoptive families to his real mother and a real birthday, but it will require testimony from witnesses in South Africa, which prosecutors don't want to allow. Instead, they're pushing for the x-rays. Goetz isn't fighting the x-rays, but he doesn't think they'll be definitive. "Ultimately, it's going to give us a range," Goetz says. "I don't know that you'll ever have precision."