The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

August 21, 2013

DA: Evidence, not race, determined charges in jogger's slaying


CNHI News Service

DUNCAN, Okla. — District Attorney Jason Hicks said Wednesday the racial ethnicity of three teenagers arrested for the random shooting death of college baseball player Christopher Lane of Melbourne, Australia, had nothing to do with the criminal charges brought against them.

Hicks responded to a reporter's question about the comment by the sister of James Edwards, 15,  a black defendant, that prosecutors appeared to give preferential treatment to Michael Dewayne Jones, 17, a white defendant.

Rachel Padilla, who is black, said law enforcement officials were prejudiced against her brother and the third defendant, Chancey Allen Luna, because they are youths of color and were charged with first-degree murder while Jones was charged with the lesser crime of being an accessory to murder after the fact and use of a motor vehicle in the discharge of a weapon.

"I don't feel it is fair," said Padilla.

Prosecutors said all three youths were responsible for the random drive-by shooting of Lane last week while he was jogging along a road on the north side of town. They said the teens were bored and decided to kill sombody for fun.

At Tuesday's initial court hearing on the case they said Luna, riding in the back seat of Jones' car, fired the single shot from a .22-caliber pistol that killed Lane. Edwards rode in the front passenger's seat and Jones drove the ambush car, they said.

"All I am going to say on that question (of race) is we have cleared the cases the way the evidence has been laid out in front of us," said Hicks.

Police Chief Danny Ford told reporters the day after the trio's arrest that Jones was the only one who cooperated with investigators, raising speculation that prosecutors may have made a deal with him to testify against the other youths.

The two teenagers charged with first-degree murder could get life without parole if convicted. Jones could also get a life prison term, but he would be eligible for parole in 45 years, under Oklahoma law.

Sheriff Wayne McKinney said the teenagers are being held in cells isolated from each other at the Stephens County Jail. He said this protocol was for security reasons and to prevent them from collaborating with each other.

Hicks said he has not yet decided if the youths will be tried separately or together. He said details were being worked out for them to be represented by public defenders if they cannot afford their own lawyers. Not guilty pleas were entered for all three at their initial court appearance.

Details for this story were provided by the Duncan, Okla., Banner.