US teen charged with lesser count in death of university baseball player from Australia

The Associated Press
June 17, 2014 01:41 PM

Brenda Edwards, right, the mother of James Edwards Jr., talks with her son's defense attorney, Albert J. Hock, Jr., left, in the Stephens County Courthouse in Duncan, Okla., Tuesday, June 17, 2014. Edwards Jr. was originally charged as an adult in the murder of Australian Christopher Lane. Following today's court proceedings, those charges were dropped, and he has been charged as a juvenile with accessory after the fact to murder in the first degree. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

DUNCAN, Okla. - A 16-year-old boy accused in the shooting death of a baseball player from Australia will no longer face a first-degree murder charge and is testifying against two teenage co-defendants.

The Stephens County District Attorney's Office on Tuesday filed a motion to dismiss the murder charge against James Francis Edwards Jr. Prosecutors filed a new charge of accessory after the fact in juvenile court against Edwards in the shooting death of Chris Lane, 22.

Edwards testified against 18-year-old Michael Dewayne Jones and 17-year-old Chancey Luna during their preliminary hearings and is expected to testify against them at trial in August. Both are charged with first-degree murder. Prosecutors had earlier said they would dismiss the first-degree murder charge against Edwards in exchange for his continued testimony.

Evidence gathered since the killing "tends to further implicate Chancey Luna and Michael Jones and further casts doubt on the role of Edwards in the murder of Christopher Lane," according to the motion.

The motion stated that "it is in the best interests of justice that this matter be dismissed and that the State be allowed to proceed against Edwards in the juvenile division of the Stephens County District Court."

Because the charge is in juvenile court, records in the case are sealed. There is also a gag order.

Lane was shot while jogging along a tree-lined road in Duncan while visiting his girlfriend's parents in August. Investigators said he was randomly targeted by "bored" teenagers. He had been preparing to enter his senior baseball season at East Central University in Ada.

Edwards' mother, Brenda Edwards, said following the closed-door court hearing on Tuesday that her heart goes out to all the families involved.

"I never got a chance to acknowledge the Christopher Lane family and I just wanted to make that acknowledgement," said Brenda Edwards, who had been in prison for drug charges and was released in April, according to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections website.

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Follow Kristi Eaton on Twitter at http://twitter.com/KristiEaton .

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