DUNCAN — After gunning down a jogger from a car, the shooter complained, “I thought there was supposed to be blanks in the gun,” a witness testified Tuesday.
“Me, too. Sorry,” the driver responded, according to the testimony.
The surprise testimony came from James Francis Edwards Jr., 16, the youngest of three murder defendants charged in the Aug. 16 drive-by shooting of an Australian baseball player.
Edwards testified at a preliminary hearing against his two friends, Chancey Allen Luna, 16, and Michael Dewayne Jones, 18. All three are from Duncan.
He identified Luna as the shooter and Jones as the driver. He said Jones swerved toward the jogger before the shot was fired.
Edwards testified after making a deal with prosecutors to be a witness in exchange for the eventual dismissal of his murder charge.
Under his deal, Edwards will face punishment for being an accessory after the fact. He is accused in the accessory charge of calling a friend from jail to make sure the gun was hidden.
In another surprise, Edwards also revealed that he and Luna have talked in jail about the shooting.
“He just said that he didn't mean to shoot him. That's, you know, pretty much it,” Edwards said.
Stephens County Special Judge Jerry Herberger will conclude the preliminary hearing for Luna and Jones on March 12.
The judge must decide whether the evidence is sufficient against Luna and Jones for a murder trial.
The judge put off ruling until March because one prosecution witness, a teenager, refused to testify until he talked to an attorney. The judge agreed to appoint the witness an attorney.
Edwards will be back in court May 13. His defense attorney, Al Hoch, wants him to be prosecuted on the accessory charge as a juvenile or a youthful offender rather than as an adult.
After the testimony Tuesday, Luna's court-appointed attorney, Jim Berry, told news reporters, “Our young man is innocent of premeditated murder.”
“These young fellows thought there were blanks in the gun,” he told reporters.
The defense attorney suggested that evidence could result in a manslaughter verdict or second-degree murder verdict at trial for Luna rather than a first-degree murder conviction. “We'd ask everybody to keep an open mind,” Berry said.
A visitor in Duncan
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.
The girlfriend, Sarah Harper, was in court Tuesday. She wiped her eyes with a tissue as a painter described trying to save Lane.
The painter, Richard Rhoades, said he heard a loud pop while starting to clean up from a house-painting job. He said he found Lane face down on Country Club Road. He described Lane as gasping for air every 30 to 45 seconds.
Rhoades said he and a woman turned Lane over and did CPR. He said the woman after a short time told him to stop, that the victim was gone. “She reached over and shut his eyelids and I put my shirt over his face,” Rhoades said.
In the weeks after the shooting, police and Stephens County District Attorney Jason Hicks described the shooting as a thrill killing. Police Chief Danny Ford told reporters the driver, Jones, had said the three shot the jogger because they were bored.
There was no testimony Tuesday, though, about motive.
Edwards testified there was no talk of shooting anyone while he was in the car. He said he didn't even know Luna had a gun.
He said Jones and Luna had picked him up the afternoon of Aug. 16 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.
He said he asked them if they had shot a donkey the night before. He said Jones answered, “Yes, we did.”
A female donkey was found shot repeatedly in Duncan the morning of Aug. 16.
Edwards said he was rolling a marijuana cigarette on his laptop on the car's front seat when Jones swerved toward the jogger and Luna fired. Edwards said he saw the jogger in the mirror holding his right side.
He said he then looked Luna and Jones directly in their faces. He described both as looking cold and shocked.
“I didn't know what to say. I was confused,” Edwards testified.
He said the conversation about blanks took place while they stopped outside a Mexican restaurant to hide the gun underneath the hood of Jones' car.
Police in August said the three defendants had been at a house and targeted Lane after seeing him jog by. Police based their initial account on statements Jones made after his arrest.
Edwards, though, said nothing about stopping at a house. Instead, he said the three had been stopped for a red light when they saw the jogger ahead of them on Country Club Road.
Edwards described the gun used in the shooting as a .22-caliber revolver. Authorities have not recovered the weapon.
If convicted of first-degree murder, Luna and Jones face life in prison or life in prison without the possibility of release.
Relatives and friends of all three defendants filled the courtroom Tuesday. Luna's mother, Jennifer Luna, brought to court a large scrapbook of her son's accomplishments.