DUNCAN — Two of the suspects in the fatal shooting of an Australian baseball player have been ordered to face trial.
A judge Wednesday ordered the first-degree murder trial, agreeing prosecutor had sufficient evidence against Michael Dewayne Jones, 18, and Chancey Allen Luna, 16.
A third suspect, James Francis Edwards Jr., 16, testified against his friends in February in exchange for the eventual dismissal of his murder case. Edwards will be prosecuted instead as an accessory.
All three are from Duncan.
Stephens County Special Judge Jerry Herberger rejected defense arguments there was no evidence the Aug. 16 shooting was premeditated.
In surprise testimony Wednesday, the final witness at the preliminary hearing testified Jones claimed in August they had tried to shoot others.
The witness, sheriff’s dispatcher Heather George, 30, said she overheard Jones talking Aug. 23 from a holding cell to another inmate.
She said Jones was asked why they had targeted an Australian.
He replied, “We tried to shoot several others, but we kept missing,” according to her testimony.
The victim, Christopher Lane, 22, was in Duncan visiting his girlfriend. Both had just returned from Australia. Lane, a senior on a baseball scholarship at East Central University in Ada, was shot in the back while jogging along Country Club Road.
Prosecutors allege Luna fired the shot and Jones swerved toward the victim. Police have not found the weapon — believed to be a .22-caliber revolver.
In testimony Feb. 4, Edwards described the shooting, saying it took him by surprise. He said Jones and Luna both later claimed they thought the gun had blanks.
He testified in February that Jones and Luna had picked him up to take him to the courthouse so he could sign up for probation on a juvenile theft offense. He said he had agreed to share some marijuana with them for the ride.
Edwards said he was rolling a marijuana cigarette on his laptop on the car’s front seat when Jones swerved toward a jogger and Luna fired. Edwards said he saw in the mirror that the jogger was holding his right side.
District Attorney Jason Hicks argued Wednesday there was more than enough evidence the shooting was intentional. He pointed to the testimony that Jones swerved and Luna had stuck the pistol out the window.
The prosecutor also suggested Luna and Jones lied about the gun having blanks as part of a plan in case they got caught. The prosecutor also suggested the two had seen Lane jogging earlier before picking up their friend.
Duncan Police Chief Danny Ford told reporters in August that Jones had admitted being the driver and had said the jogger was shot because they were bored. Prosecutors, though, did not put on any testimony during the preliminary hearing about Jones’ statements to police.
If convicted at trial of first-degree murder, Jones and Luna faces life in prison or life in prison without the possibility of parole. Prosecutors cannot seek the death penalty because of their ages at the time of the shooting. Jones was then 17.
Luna’s attorney, Jim Berry, argued to the judge that the testimony in the preliminary hearing was “totally void” of any evidence the shooting was premeditated.
“It sounds like an accident,” Berry said.
He also questioned the credibility of Edwards, saying Edwards had made a sweetheart deal to avoid a murder charge.
Jones’ attorney, Silas Lyman, asked the judge to consider ordering the trial be for second-degree murder rather than first-degree murder.
During the preliminary hearing Wednesday, the district attorney sought to question a friend of the suspects about whether he knew the location of the revolver used in the shooting.
The witness, Kjwan Martin, 18, of Duncan, refused to answer most of the questions. At the advice of a court-appointed attorney, Martin asserted his Fifth Amendment right under the U.S. Constitution not to incriminate himself.
Luna’s mother, Jennifer Luna, attended the hearing Wednesday, wearing a pink shirt with her son’s face on the front.
She told The Oklahoman her son has told her from jail he didn’t do it.
“I will stand beside him no matter what,” she said.
“I will stand beside my son.”
In a related development Wednesday, prosecutors asked the judge to find Luna’s defense attorneys, Jim Berry and Howard K. Berry Jr., in contempt of court. Prosecutors claim the two violated a judicial gag order when they spoke to news reporters after the first day of the preliminary hearing in February.
A hearing on the contempt application is set for April 18.