Lane Given Until Sept. 30 to Enter Insanity Plea, Location of Trial in Question
Monday, August 20, 2012
T.J. Lane could be tried for the murder of three Chardon High School students as early as Nov. 12.
But whether that trial takes place in Geauga County has yet to be decided.
The accused Chardon High School shooter — who opened fire Feb. 27, killing three students and injuring three others — appeared before Geauga County Common Pleas Judge David Fuhry for a pretrial and scheduling conference Monday morning.
The 17-year-old entered the courtroom, subdued and slightly unkempt in appearance, and kept his eyes on the judge.
Following a nearly 90-minute closed-door meeting with attorneys, Fuhry addressed issues ranging from the deadline for entering an insanity plea to scheduling a trial date.
Fuhry agreed to modify an earlier order that would have required Lane's attorney, Mark DeVan, to enter a "not guilty by reason of insanity" plea this week and gave the defense counsel until Sept. 30 to enter a plea.
"There is no secret in this case that our defense will be one of sanity or insanity at the time of the act. Up until this point in time Mr. Lane has been examined by mental health experts on behalf of the defense, however, additional testing is necessary," DeVan told Fuhry. "Tests that remain to completed will be neuropsychological testing, an MRI and interpretation of those by our mental health experts to formulate a defense in this case."
DeVan added the additional testing was made necessary by evidence concerning Lane's mental state introduced in the earlier juvenile court proceedings.
"Among other problems of which (Lane) suffers includes visual and auditory hallucinations which are brought on by light and sound and stress," DeVan said. "For instance, he has been suffering from severe chronic migraines for years and they are debilitating in nature, to the point where the scans of various sorts are necessary to determine whether or not there is, in fact, organic brain problems, whether it be delusions or lobe development or other issues.
Consequently, DeVan requested the court grant them the extension.
Geauga County Prosecutor David Joyce agreed DeVan should have ample time to formulate any insanity defense.
"I do take issue with the fact that Mr. DeVan testifying on behalf of his client today that such things like hallucinations or those things have occurred because there's nothing before this court or in the record that would show that to be true," Joyce said. "The only things that we do know is that prior to Feb. 27 of this year there has been no record or history of such things."
However, Joyce said he would agree to a Sept. 30 deadline, but he would like that to be a "date set certain."
"The state stands ready, willing and able to try this case if in fact they have their testing done at that time," he said. "We have psychiatrists on line who are going to be able to review those records and we would like try this case as soon as possible on behalf of the victims and the families in this case."
Joyce told the court he would be ready to try the case within weeks of the Sept. 30 plea deadline and suggested a Nov. 12 trial date.
DeVan did not object.
Fuhry called the date "optimistic" in light of the hundreds of summonses that would need to be issued and coordination of expert witness schedules.
He added, "The parties may need additional time to prepare their cases. Expert witnesses may need to conduct evaluations and to appear in trial."
Fuhry said there may also be other motions filed that require a separate hearing prior to the trial.
"There's another consideration that the court has and that is trying to schedule a trial of this nature close to the holiday season or to sandwich it in between major holidays may not be wise or prudent and that's because ... a lot of people travel, take extended vacations. They have a hard time being available in November and December," he explained. "And there's the consideration that once a date is established, we send out these summonses to the jurors, it's not fair to them to block off a period of their lives to hear a case like this and then to plan around that, schedule around that and then to have it changed."
He added, "So I do want to get a date that we can live with, rely upon and the experts know they have to be available for."
Fuhry said he would consider the Nov. 12 trial date and would make a decision "forthwith" on a final trial date.
Lane has been charged with three counts of aggravated murder, two counts of attempted aggravated murder and one count of felonious assault in the deaths of Daniel Parmertor, 16, Russell King Jr., 17, and Demetrius Hewlin, 16.
Those injured were Nick Walczak, 17, Joy Rickers, 18, and Nate Mueller, 17.
Lane is being tried as an adult and faces a maximum of life in prison without parole if convicted.
Fuhry also made mention of a motion filed late Friday afternoon requesting a change of venue for Lane's trial.
"That hasn't been ruled upon and the state ... has 14 days from date of
service of that motion to respond to it," Fuhry said. "But that's in the
future, so we have to go on what we know right now. We have to get ready for a trial."