A prosecutor’s statement that Thomas M. “T.J.” Lane III, the Chardon, Ohio, teen who authorities say shot and killed three high school students and wounded two others, is “not well” was “not normal, but this is far from a normal case,” criminal defense lawyer Ian Friedman told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. His case will automatically be transferred to the adult criminal court. He cannot face the death penalty because of his age. Lane’s rights still need to be rigorously protected at every step and lawyers should be working to mount his defense now, said Daniel Margolis, an attorney who has frequently represented minors charged with serious crimes. Margolis recommended filing a “suggestion of incompetence” and ask for the teen to be evaluated by an expert before he is bound over to the adult court.
Carmen Naso, ex-prosecutor in Cuyahoga County’s juvenile court, said mental health problems could mitigate any sentence Lane gets — but not much. “Even if he’s really disturbed, his sentence will be lengthy.” Naso, a faculty member at Case Western Reserve University’s Law Clinic Center, said that if for some reason Lane was found not competent, he would be sent somewhere to have his competence restored and then be tried. Friedman said, “This is the type of case that truly tests the law,” he said. “The allegations are heinous, but people still have to realize the young man still has rights.”