MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

August 28, 2013

Gag order imposed in Duncan killing

Autopsy shows victim died from single shot

By Mike Smith
CNHI

— DUNCAN —  A judge has issued a gag order prohibiting attorneys and other parties involved in the fatal drive-by shooting case in Duncan from talking to the media or public about the matter.

Also, the state medical examiner said Tuesday that Christopher Lane, the 22-year-old Australian who was shot while jogging in Duncan on Aug. 16, was struck by a single bullet that collapsed his lungs, fractured two ribs and tore through his aorta and pulmonary artery, causing extensive bleeding.

Authorities say Lane was shot in the back with a .22-caliber revolver. They say the three teens accused in the case targeted him at random.

In his order dated Monday but filed Tuesday, Stephens County Special District Court Judge Jerry Herberger bars parties, attorneys and their staff or employees, and agents from making public comments about the case outside of the courtroom.

Stephens County District Attorney Jason Hicks requested the order.

Irven Box, a well-known criminal defense attorney in Oklahoma City who is not involved in the case, said he would read inclusion of the word “agents” in the gag order to include law enforcement.

Chancey Luna, 16, and James Edwards Jr., 15, are charged with first-degree murder and 17-year-old Michael Dewayne Jones is charged with use of a vehicle in the discharge of a firearm and accessory to murder after the fact. Not guilty pleas were automatically entered in their case last week.

Herberger said in his order there is a reasonable likelihood that both the state’s and the defendants’ rights to a fair trial would be prejudiced without a gag order.

He wrote that all possible alternatives — including a highly scrutinized jury-selection process, cautionary instructions, change of venue, a continuance and a possible jury sequestration, “would undoubtedly help but would not assure a fair trial in this matter.”

The fatal shooting has not only made big news in Duncan, the rest of Oklahoma and nationally, but internationally as well, and not only in Australia.

Hicks and Duncan Police Chief Danny Ford have been inundated from the beginning with media questions and interview requests about the shooting.

Hicks said last week that lost in all the media attention has been his primary focus — ensuring that justice is done for Lane and his loved ones.

The judge’s order bars parties in the case from making any extrajudicial comments about the case to the news media or in any other manner or forum “reasonably likely to be publicly disseminated or published in the news media.”

General statements from the accused about their innocence are still allowed, as are statements about dates and times of court proceedings.

Mike Smith writes for the Duncan Banner.