Monday, January 28, 2013
A jury will not decide accused Chardon High School gunman T.J. Lane’s punishment if he is convicted on the most serious of his charges in connection with the deadly Feb. 27 shooting.
Geauga County Common Pleas Judge David Fuhry ruled Friday that the court would conduct Lane’s sentencing hearing, rather than a jury, if he is convicted on one or more aggravated murder charges with death specifications.
In Ohio, a defendant convicted of aggravated murder with death specification faces the death penalty if he or she were 18 at the time the crime was committed; or up to life in prison without parole or life with the potential of parole after 20, 25 or 30 years, if he or she were under 18 when the crime was committed.
In Lane’s case, although he has been charged with a capital offense, because he was 17 when he fatally shot Daniel Parmertor, 16, Demetrius Hewlin, 16, and Russell King Jr., 17, the death penalty is not an option.
“Submitting the question of punishment to the jury where death is not an option simply does not conform to the (Ohio Revised Code Section 2929.03 (D)) sentencing phase, which controls only when death may be imposed,” Fuhry wrote.
Instead, the court would consider any aggravating circumstances or mitigating factors such as the history, character and background of Lane — including any mental illness or defect and prior criminal record — when handing down his sentence, the judge said.
In addition, Fuhry said the court will not discuss Lane’s punishment with prospective jurors.
“By stipulation of the parties, the only advisory which prospective jurors will receive with respect to the punishment is the fact that the case does not involve the death penalty,” he wrote.
The jury will also be sequestered during deliberation, Fuhry said.
Lane has been charged with three counts of aggravated murder, two counts of attempted aggravated murder and one count of felonious assault.
Those injured in the shooting were Nick Walczak, 18 — who is paralyzed from the chest down — Joy Rickers, 18, and Nathan Mueller, 17, who’s ear was grazed by one of the bullets.
Lane’s murder trial has been pushed back three times.
There is an attorney conference scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Wednesday in Fuhry’s chambers to set, among other things, a new trial date.