Jury Recommends Life Without Parole for Teen Convicted in Duncan Shooting20-Apr-2015
When he was only 16 years old, Chancey Luna pointed a gun out of a vehicle, aimed at a jogger. and fired. Christopher Lane, 22, fell dead. The incident made international headlines for many reasons--among them, the fact that Lane was an Australian citizen playing baseball in the United States. Another element that captured public attention was the age of the shooter and his companions. Accompanying the 16-year-old Luna were the car's driver, 17-year-old Michael Jones, and a friend, 15-year-old James Edwards, Jr. Perhaps most shocking was the randomness of the crime and the motive for it. Just after his arrest, Jones allegedly told police that they killed the man as he drove by because they were "bored."
Since that time, first degree murder charges were dismissed against Edwards, who agreed to testify for the prosecution and is now charged as a juvenile with being an accessory to murder after the fact. Jones pleaded guilty to second degree murder, accepting a life sentence in return for his refusal to testify against Luna. He will be eligible for parole when he is in his 50's. Another man, 22-year-old Oddesse Barnes, pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact for concealing the murder weapon. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
As Luna awaited trial, his defense attorney tried in vain to get the venue moved, saying the teen could not get a fair trial in Stephens County. He also failed to get the teen, who was charged as an adult, recertified as a juvenile or youthful offender. Finally, at trial, the defense asked the judge to allow the jury to consider lesser charges, including second degree murder and first degree manslaughter. Those requests, too, were denied.
Last week, Chancey Luna stood trial for the murder of Christopher Lane. His defense attorney started the case with a bold statement: that Luna was, in fact, the shooter. He said that the teen fired the gun to "scare" the jogger, but that he had no premeditation or intent to kill anyone. Edwards testified that he heard both Luna and Jones say that they thought there were blanks in the gun. Without premeditation or intent, there is no first degree murder, but rather a lesser crime of second degree murder or first degree manslaughter. Luna did not take the stand in his own defense. In fact, the only defense witness was the teen's mother.
After both the prosecution and the defense rested their cases, the jury began to deliberate the fate of the 17-year-old defendant.
They found him guilty.
First degree murder is punishable by either life in prison or life without parole (a person who commits a murder before he or she turns 18 is not eligible for the death penalty, even if the crime is considered "especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel"). While formal sentencing will not take place until June, the jury has recommended the maximum sentence of life without parole.
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