Defense attorney urges keeping at-risk youths within the fold of supervision

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Johnnie Mae Cooper is the mother of Marquis Moses, who is in jail for hurling to the ground a man who hit his head and died. She thinks guidance after an earlier offense might have helped her son avoid more trouble.

Gary Server, Marquis Moses' defense attorney in his 2007 homicide case, has seen many kids do well under Family Court supervision.

But when they are released from supervision, some teens then reoffend on a larger scale.

"If only a social worker, once or twice a week, hung out with these kids, maybe it would have saved lives," Server said.

He wishes that a community group would step up, or that one would form, to reach out to at-risk youths after their cases are discharged from Family Court.

"In my mind," he said, "the best people to do this would be trained social workers," or people who have a background in psychology.

Moses had just finished a term of probation in juvenile court about three weeks before he fatally punched 55-year-old David Cheng on Lehigh Avenue near Germantown on July 15, 2007.

Moses' mom, Johnnie Mae Cooper, contended in a recent interview that she also believes that if some kind of advocate had checked on her son after his juvenile probation ended he would not be in prison.

"Without their guidance - look, I'm a single parent with six kids, I can keep my eye on them, but . . . what more can I do?" Cooper, 38, said. Asked whether she had beaten her son, as he had alleged, she said that she disciplined him when he got in trouble, but that it wasn't abuse.

George D. Mosee Jr., deputy district attorney of the district attorney's juvenile division, said that Server's post-probation idea was "not an easy proposition," but a "worthwhile" one. "What you're trying to prevent is the environment from taking its toll on the young person," Mosee said.

Common Pleas Judge Benjamin Lerner, however, said that any available resources would better be used in improving juvenile-probation services rather than in trying to fund something altogether new, post-probation.

He also noted that without court authority, any post-probation program would be hard to implement. "Suppose you can send a social worker or mental-health professional to make house calls. You have no way of making [the youths or their families] open the door," he said.

But, Server believes, it's worth a try.