When Scott Dyleski goes on trial for the slaying of his neighbor, Pamela Vitale, one of the witnesses for the prosecution may be his mother.
"Not only is it highly unusual, but one could really say that it's somewhat outrageous to pit a mother against a son," said defense attorney Dana Cole.
Dyleski's mother, Esther Fielding, was arrested last week and charged with concealing evidence. After one night in jail, she tearfully agreed to cooperate with the prosecution in exchange for having the charges against her dropped.
Dyleski, 16, is being tried as an adult and faces first degree murder charges in the death of Vitale, the wife of prominent attorney Daniel Horowitz. Vitale was found beaten to death in a mobile home on the couple's California estate where they were building their 7,000-square-foot dream home.
"It is obvious independent of the attention that this case has brought that this is brutal homicide," deputy district attorney Harold Jewett said.
On the night of the killing, Dyleski called his mother, who told him to stay at his girlfriend's house because the road was blocked by police, according to an affidavit.
If Fielding, 53, takes the stand against her son, she may also be asked to explain why a bloody glove was found in her car. But some experts warn her testimony could backfire.
"I think often times jurors will resent the fact that the prosecution is creating that type of stress and rift in a family by forcing a mother to testify against a son," Cole said.
Mothers testifying against sons is not without precedent. In the Columbus, Ohio, freeway shooting case, the suspect's mother had to testify against him. Monica Lewinsky's mother was in tears after she appeared before a grand jury in Washington, D.C.
"There's nothing more powerful when you're a prosecutor than someone coming in with damning evidence that doesn't want to be there," said Anne Bremner, a former prosecutor.
If convicted, Dyleski faces 26 years to life.