The three Duncan teenagers charged in the drive-by shooting death of an Australian national will remain isolated from one another and other inmates at the Stephens County Jail as long as they are there.
Stephens County Sheriff Wayne McKinney said Wednesday that holding them individually is not only for their own protection, but was standard protocol for anyone under age 18 held in the jail.
“And we don’t want them collaborating with each other,” McKinney said.
Chancey Allen Luna, 16, and James Edwards, 15, face first-degree murder charges and Michael Dewayne Jones, 17, is charged with use of a vehicle in the discharge of a weapon and accessory to murder after the fact.
They are accused in the death of 22-year-old Christopher Lane of Australia, who was jogging along Country Club Road in Duncan on Friday when shot in the back with a .22-caliber pistol. Prosecutors say Jones was driving and the other two were passengers, with Luna pulling the trigger.
Stephens County District Attorney Jason Hicks said Wednesday that it was too early to say whether the teens would be tried separately or together. Regardless, it could be months or longer before there is any trial.
Hicks said Wednesday afternoon that he was not aware of attorneys yet representing any of the three teens, but that was only a matter of them filling out some paper work if they wanted a public defender. Their next hearings are in October.
An attorney who handles some cases for indigent defendants in Stephens County talked briefly with Luna during his initial appearance in court Tuesday, and also spoke briefly on behalf of Jones. But that was only for that hearing to have the charges read and set bond.
Automatic pleas of not guilty were entered for each one.
Hicks has said that the charges were based on the evidence in the case and reiterated that Wednesday.
Rachel Padilla, the sister of Edwards, told reporters after the court hearing on Tuesday that she thought court officials were being prejudiced against her brother and Luna, who she said were “of color.” Edwards is black. Luna is of mixed race.
Edwards and Luna were charged with murder and denied bond, while Jones - the oldest of the three - was charged with lesser offenses and had bond set at $1 million. Authorities say Edwards was the only one of the three who cooperated during the investigation.
“All I am going to say on that question (of race) is we have cleared the cases the way the evidence has been laid out in front of us,” Hicks said.
Hicks said Wednesday that it still has not been determined where the teens got the .22-caliber pistol or a shotgun found in the car they were in.
Luna and Edwards could be sentenced up to life in prison without parole if convicted. Jones faces up to 45 years in prison if convicted on one charge and up to life on the other, but a life term in Oklahoma is defined as 45 years. If he got the maximum sentence on each charge, it could be 90 years.
Under the charges, the three teens would have to serve at least 85 percent of their sentence term.
Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., said Wednesday that the shooting was tragic and difficult to explain and he did not blame anyone for being angry.
But, he said, “This does not represent who and what Oklahoma’s are and it’s certainly not representative of what the community of Duncan represents. There are plenty of people saying things and it’s really a sad day, but it’s not reflective at all of the community where this occurred and the state.”
The shooting has prompted calls by some in Australia, including the former deputy prime minister, for tourists to boycott the United States. Many are outraged about crime in the U.S. and the proliferation of guns.
Cole, whose district includes Duncan, said he regretted the comment by the former deputy prime minister.
“But that is a free country and a vigorous democracy,” he said. “But I think if Australians would take the time to look at this nation and Oklahoma in particular they will find we have shared values and shared commitment to a free society.”