The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

World, nation, state

May 13, 2014

Life sentence upheld in fatal Ohio school shooting

CHARDON — A teenager who fatally shot three students in a school cafeteria didn’t have his constitutional rights violated when he was given a prison sentence of life without parole, an appeals court said Monday while providing new details about the shooting, including the killer’s assertion he was never bullied.

The court ruled unanimously to uphold the sentence handed down to T.J. Lane following the shooting at Chardon High School, in northeast Ohio, in February 2012, saying it did not constitute cruel and unusual punishment. The court also rejected arguments by defense attorneys that the law allowing the 17-year-old shooter’s case to be transferred to adult court was unconstitutional.

The three-judge court also ruled that the three consecutive life sentences, one for each victim, were justified.

Lane “did not act on impulse, on provocation, or under pressure from peers or adults,” the court said. “To the contrary, he planned this attack weeks in advance before he went to school that day with a loaded gun.”

Lane “also brought indescribable pain, grief, and lifelong tragedy to the victims’ families,” the court said.

Messages were left with his attorneys seeking comment on Monday.

The court opinion included new details about the case, including descriptions of Lane’s actions the day of the shooting.

“He said he does not have problems with anyone and was not upset with anyone,” according to the court’s ruling. “He said that no one had bullied him. This was just something he chose to do.”

Lane gained new infamy at his sentencing when he wore a T-shirt with “killer” scrawled across it and gestured obscenely toward the victims’ families.

Monday’s ruling offered more details about a similar shirt he wore under a dress shirt the day of the shootings.

Lane bought the shirt with the word “killer” printed across the chest about a week earlier, the opinion said. He said he wore it “because he was going to be shooting people,” according to the ruling.

In interviews with Geauga County detectives that day, Lane said he knew what he did was wrong, the ruling said. Lane “feels terrible for doing it; and he has regret,” it said.

Lane admitted to a psychologist that he had lied to another psychologist, Phillip Resnick, about being schizophrenic and hearing voices. He said he also lied about having been sexually abused.

“He said he lied about his report of being a victim of sexual abuse because he thought it ‘couldn’t hurt’ to say he was,” the decision said.

Lane told the second psychologist, Dr. Lynn Luna Jones, he decided to admit he’d made everything up because, if he didn’t, he was afraid “they wouldn’t let me change my plea to guilty.”

In February, on the second anniversary of the shooting, family members of the slain teenagers said in a lawsuit that the school didn’t have enough security and that the alternative school Lane attended didn’t properly evaluate the risks he posed. The school district wouldn’t comment on the lawsuit after it was filed.

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