Why was T.J. Lane's obscene behavior allowed in courtroom?

Teenaged school shooter's defiant display shocks nation.
Wire
Mar 21, 2013

Convicted murderer Thomas “T.J.” Lane III’s obscene courtroom show to the families of his three victims grabbed headlines locally and nationally on Tuesday, raising the question — why was the teenaged school shooter allowed to make this final, defiant display?

Lane used his sentencing in Judge David L. Fuhry’s Geauga County courtroom as an opportunity to invoke obscene gestures and speak to his victims’ families after he casually unbuttoned his dress shirt to reveal an undershirt with the word “killer” written across it in marker.

The court’s bailiff told members of the press Fuhry did not see the shirt in the packed courtroom and would have immediately stopped the proceedings and made Lane put his dress shirt back on.

Lane walked into Chardon High School on Feb. 27, 2012 carrying a .22 caliber handgun. He unleashed a spray of bullets, ultimately killing 16-year-old Daniel Parmertor, Russell King, Jr., 17, and Demetrius Hewlin and injuring Nick Walczak, 17, Joy Rickers, 18, and Nate Mueller.

Ashtabula County Sheriff William Johnson said courtroom and jail protocol differs from county to county, but had Lane been in an Ashtabula County courtroom, he wouldn’t have been able to take off his clothes.

“I’m not sure what the policies are in other counties, but in Ashtabula County, if they are coming from the jail to a sentencing — meaning that they have already been convicted — we take them into the courtroom cuffed and in shackles and wearing a jail jumpsuit.”

During a criminal trial, a defendant wears civilian clothing and walks into the courtroom uncuffed, Johnson said.

“Once they are convicted, it is a totally different scene,” he said. “A jail uniform and handcuffs would have prevented this from happening.”

Recently appointed Western County Court Judge David Schroeder said he understands Fuhry’s allowances to Lane.

“In a case like that, the court needs to be very vigilant that the defendant, who is essentially, appearing in court for the last time ever, is given every opportunity to legitimately express himself before the court,” Schroeder said. “I would surmise that judge was probably being as open he could be to avoid an appellate issue. In high-profile cases such as murders, as a judge, you err on the side of caution. In a murder case, everything is closely, closely scrutinized.”

“The judge was right to give (Lane) his last day in court and the ability to express himself,” he said. “Otherwise it could become an issue on appeal.”

Schroeder said defendants who appear in court for trial or legal proceedings have the right to wear civilian clothing, so as not to appear incarcerated.

“There are no ‘hard and fast’ rules,” he said. “The defendant usually has to sign papers, and it is difficult to do that handcuffed. (Lane) wasn’t presenting a physical threat, not with that may deputies present.”

Though Lane was 17 years old at time of the shooting, he was tried as an adult, but state law prevents an underage defendant from facing the death penalty. Lane was convicted of three counts of aggravated murder, two counts of attempted aggravated murder and felonious assault and will spend the rest of his life in prison. State law also gives him an automatic appeal.

Johnson said while there was little deputies in the courtroom could have done to keep Lane quiet, he is surprised they let him take off his shirt.

“I was shocked that they allowed him to take his shirt completely off. We would have stopped it if it had happened in one of our courtrooms,” he said. “The judge would have stopped it, I can pretty much bet on that.”

Johnson said whatever satisfaction Lane got from his courtroom outburst will quickly fade when he faces the reality of hard prison life.

“I guess (Lane) knew he was going away for life, so he probably felt like he didn’t have anything to lose,” Johnson said. “But a kid like that, he will have a tough time in prison. I’m not sure if he will be in solitary confinement, or what his prison situation will ultimately be, but I can say he will have a very hard time of it.”

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By Margie Netzel - Star Beacon, Ashtabula, Ohio (MCT)

©2013 the Star Beacon (Ashtabula, Ohio)

Visit the Star Beacon (Ashtabula, Ohio) at www.starbeacon.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

Comments

BlueAngel

As soon as he took his dress shirt off and the t-shirt was seen the judge should have stopped the proceedings and made him take that shirt off.. He was a smug little SOB and he should have been knocked down a few pegs...He had no remorse whatsoever...he got life and I do not think that was fair.. kill him like he killed those 3 boys... I hope he gets what he deserves in prision.. a big black man...

swiss family

since he had already plead guilty.. I think that he should have been hand cuffed and already in a prison uniform... I also find it almost impossible for the Judge to claim that he could not see him, because of the packed courtroom...Most courts are set up to show the defendant, and the plaintiff clearly visible for the Judge to see.. so I think that this Judge let the families of the victims down, and should apologize to them...

Now The Rest of...

The little creep is going to prison for the rest of his life, the judge made sure that no appeals could result from the sentencing. With his attitude I am sure he will be very popular in prison.

Cliff Cannon

Darn shame, Mr. Lane didn't get death.Having seen the " before " prison picture. Can't wait for the " after " prison one.

24productions

I'm suprised he didn't claim to be an addict, and get a CBCF meal ticket...hm...

sorryhog

Take note:.22 caliber handgun, not an assult rifle, like the gun-grabbers would like you to beleive!

Sitting In The ...

The Federal Assault Weapons Ban expired on September 13, 2004, There have been multiple attempts to renew the ban, but no bill has reached the House floor for a vote.....but there gonna take your guns right?

deertracker

That kid has a lot of sleepless nights in his future and he will be someone's princess shortly.

kURTje

His name will be changed soon. Instead of T.J. they'll call him B.J.

swiss cheese kat's picture
swiss cheese kat

He will get shanked, you can bet on that.