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Duncan Murder Charge Dismissed in Exchange for Testimony

23-Jun-2014

Last summer, Chris Lane, 22, was gunned down at random while out for a jog. The young man was an Australian national attending East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma, on a baseball scholarship, and he was visiting his girlfriend in Duncan when he was killed. The story captured international headlines, particularly when the suspects arrested in connection with Lane's death turned out to be three teenagers. One of those teens allegedly told police that Lane was targeted solely because the teens were "bored" and just wanted to kill someone. 

The Duncan "thrill kill" led to first degree murder charges against James Francis Edwards, then 15; Chancey Allen Luna, then 16; and Michael Dewayne Jones, then 17.

Charges against the three have changed over time--initially, Edwards was not charged with murder, and now, the murder charge against Edwards has been dismissed in exchange for his agreement to testify against his friends.

At a preliminary hearing in February, Edwards testified that Jones was the driver of the vehicle and that Luna pulled the trigger. He said that he did not know what the two had planned, and he seemed to indicate that the shooting was accidental. According to Edwards, after Luna pulled the trigger, he and Jones looked "shocked." Edwards said that Luna turned to Jones, who had given him the gun, and said that he thought there were blanks in the gun. According to Edwards, Jones apologized and said he thought there were blanks in the gun also.

However, this testimony goes against the alleged confession of Jones after the shooting. Jones reportedly told police that they killed Lane out of boredom, and according to one report, he said in court, "I pulled the trigger."

Police have also implicated the teens in the shooting of a donkey earlier in the day, which would seem to demonstrate that they knew the gun was loaded.

Regardless of the truth or lack thereof that has come to light thus far, Edwards has agreed to testify against Luna and Jones in exchange for the dismissal of the first degree murder charge against him. Instead, he is charged with being an accessory after the fact for his role in helping to conceal the murder weapon. 

Currently, Edwards is charged as a juvenile, which means that rather than being convicted and sentenced as an adult, if guilty, he would be adjudicated delinquent. As a juvenile delinquent, he would likely be released from a juvenile facility shortly after his 18th birthday. However, the Stephens County District Attorney wants Edwards prosecuted as an adult. If a judge certifies Edwards as an adult, he faces up to 45 years in prison.

Click here to learn more about how Oklahoma determines whether a minor is prosecuted as a juvenile, a youthful offender, or an adult.



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