In the toughest, longest case of Steve Mercer’s 12-year law career, he stood before the United States Supreme Court, spoke with a photo in hand and a mission in mind: to represent his client, 19-year-old Melanie Ookhtens, who was murdered by her cousin.
The La Cañada resident serves as deputy attorney with the California attorney general’s office in Los Angeles and dedicated several years to Knowles v. Mirzayance, which involved the fatal stabbing and shooting of Ookhtens, a sophomore at USC, by her cousin, Alexandre Mirzayance. Ookhtens was murdered in her family’s home while her parents were away celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary.
“It would have been really easy to just forget about [the case], but nobody wanted to forget about Melanie,” Mercer said. “She was the reason we all did this. I had my picture of her when I was at the Supreme Court to let me know this was my client. This was who I was here for.”