Tahlequah Daily Press

College Sports

February 5, 2014

Okla. teen: Friends thought gun only held blanks

DUNCAN — One of three boys accused in the fatal shooting of an Australian baseball player last summer said in court Tuesday that his friends believed the gun used in the crime contained only blanks.

James Francis Edwards Jr. agreed to testify against his co-defendants during a preliminary hearing. In exchange for his testimony continuing through trial, prosecutors said they will drop a murder charge and he would only face an accessory charge.

He told an Oklahoma judge Tuesday that Chancey Luna, 16, shot and killed Christopher Lane, of Melbourne, from a car driven by Michael Dewayne Jones, 18.

The judge won't decide until March whether Luna and Jones will stand trial because a witness asked to be represented by an attorney. Edwards' preliminary hearing was also delayed, until May.

Edwards, 16, said he was rolling marijuana cigarettes in the front passenger seat when Luna shot at Lane from the back seat.

The teens later drove to a restaurant, where Luna and Jones exchanged words. According to Edwards, Luna said to Jones that he thought the gun only had blanks inside them. Jones then responded: "Me too. I'm sorry," Edwards said.

Jones and Luna then dropped off Edwards at court for Edwards to sign probation papers related to a juvenile charge, said Edwards, who testified wearing an orange jail jumpsuit.

Later, Luna and Jones picked up Edwards at an apartment complex where Edward's father works. The two boys took Edwards to a church parking lot where he was planning to fight another person in an unrelated matter, but all three boys were arrested, Edwards said.

Duncan police detective Donny Foraker testified that gun residue was found on Jones' left hand and Luna's right hand. None was found on Edwards.

Prosecutors added an accessory charge against Edwards on Tuesday. According to court documents, Edwards made a phone call from the Stephens County Jail between Aug. 16 and Dec. 31, 2013, and requested someone to dispose of the weapon. Edwards testified Tuesday that he later learned the gun was disposed of but he does not know where the weapon is.

Prosecutors have not determined whether Edwards will be charged as an adult or a youthful offender for the accessory charge.

Edwards' father and Luna's mother sat just a few people over from each other in the packed courtroom. The two boys grew up together and the families are very close.

A lawyer for Luna, Jim Berry, said after the hearing that the state's evidence shows Luna was not involved in premeditated murder.

A gag order has been put in place precluding people involved in the case from discussing it outside of court.

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