CHARDON, Ohio – A 17-year-old charged in a school shooting is mentally competent to stand trial in juvenile court in the deaths of three students, a judge ruled Wednesday after considering evidence that the boy suffers from hallucinations, psychosis and fantasies.
None of the symptoms detailed in a mental evaluation of T.J. Lane would prevent him from understanding the case against him and helping in his defense, Dr. Phillip Resnick told Judge Timothy Grendell in Geauga County Juvenile Court.
The judge accepted the findings and ruled that Lane is mentally fit to stand trial in juvenile court. The charges filed against him include three counts of aggravated murder and two counts of attempted aggravated murder.
The judge postponed until May 24 a hearing on whether Lane may be tried as an adult. Grendell said his ruling on mental competency may not be used in other legal proceedings, meaning the issue may be revisited in adult Common Pleas Court.
Prosecutor David Joyce said he expects the case to be moved to adult court, where Lane could face life in prison if convicted. Minors are not eligible for the death penalty in Ohio.
Under a new state law, a child can be found competent only if he or she is able to grasp the seriousness of the charges and is able to understand the proceedings.
Lane, dressed in an open-collar blue dress shirt and dark slacks, watched attentively as Resnick described his mental state as evaluated during a 6½-hour interview April 2.
Lane, as his grandparents watched in court, made brief comments limited to acknowledging the judge's questions.
Resnick said Lane suffers from an unspecified psychosis, which Resnick described as sometimes being "out of touch with reality."
In addition, Lane over the years has experienced migraine headaches, a narrow range of emotions, withdrawing from people, has fantasies and hallucinates that he hears things. Resnick didn't detail the issues, and the judge reminded him that his evaluation must be limited to the issue of whether Lane understands the case against him and is fit to stand trial.
None of the various issues prevent Lane from cooperating in his defense, Resnick said. Questioned by Joyce, Resnick acknowledged that his report described Lane as clear, logical and coherent.
Resnick said he saw no evidence that Lane was faking mental illness.
Lane attended an alternative school for students who haven't done well in traditional schools; he had been at Chardon waiting for a bus.
Joyce said Lane has admitted taking a .22-caliber pistol and a knife to the high school east of Cleveland and firing 10 shots at a group of students sitting at a cafeteria table. The motive for the shooting remains unclear, though Joyce apparently has ruled out theories involving bullying or drug dealing.