DUNCAN — A judge is refusing to release juvenile records of the three defendants accused in the thrill killing of a baseball player from Australia.
The ruling means the public will not be able to see how police, prosecutors and judges handled previous accusations against the teens.
The three were arrested Aug. 16 in the drive-by shooting of Christopher Lane, 22. Authorities have said all three had run-ins with police before. One went to the courthouse 30 minutes after the shooting to deal with a juvenile case, authorities have said.
The Oklahoman and Tulsa World made written requests for the juvenile records. State law allows the normally confidential records to become public once a defendant is charged with a serious offense such as murder.
Stephens County Associate District Judge G. Brent Russell rejected the requests because another judge has issued a gag order in the thrill killing case.
“The court finds that the granting of such requests would serve no legitimate public or private interest and would defeat the purpose of the aforementioned order,” Russell wrote in an order received by The Oklahoman on Thursday.
The gag order prohibits prosecutors, law enforcements and defense attorneys from making comments to the press. It does not address the release of records. Special Judge Jerry Herberger issued the gag order in an effort to assure fair trials.
History of trouble?
Chancey Allen Luna, 16, and James Francis Edwards Jr., 15, were charged with first-degree murder. Michael Dewayne Jones, 17, was charged with accessory to first-degree murder after the fact and use of a vehicle in discharge of a weapon. All are from Duncan.
The Oklahoman reported this week that Luna was accused of assault in 2011, and Edwards was accused of assault and battery in 2012. Edwards also has been accused twice of threatening an act of violence — in 2011 and 2012.
Jones was accused this year of drug possession and auto burglary. The information came from law enforcement sources.
Police Chief Danny Ford earlier identified Jones as the teen who said the victim was targeted because the three were bored.
Court records filed Thursday reveal Jones spoke to a police detective at length Aug. 18, two days after his arrest.
“During this interview, Jones advised that Luna was the shooter and that Luna was in the back seat of the vehicle and that James Edwards Jr. was seated in the front passenger seat of the vehicle that Jones advised that he was operating,” the district attorney's chief investigator, Justin Scott, wrote in requests for search warrants.
“Jones described the events that led up to the point later in the evening when law enforcement officers made contact with Jones, Edwards and Luna and took them into custody,” Scott wrote.
Investigators copied information from Jones' cellphone, Luna's cellphone and from a cellphone and laptop computer found in Edwards' backpack, court records show.
Investigators were unable to get data from another of Edwards' cellphones because “a factory reset had been performed on the device.”
Investigators were particularly interested in text messages on the cellphones because of what Edwards told an Oklahoma juvenile affairs worker about 30 minutes after the killing. Edwards had been dropped off at the courthouse and met with the worker.
The worker remembered Edwards stated “there was a shooting and that he was getting text messages from people asking if he done it,” court records show.
The victim had come to Oklahoma to play college baseball. He was a student at East Central University in Ada. He was in Duncan visiting his girlfriend.