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Oklahoma teens to be tried as adults in Australian athlete's murder

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[March 13, 2014]  (Reuters)  Two Oklahoma teenagers were ordered on Wednesday to stand trial as adults for the murder of Australian baseball player Chris Lane, who was shot dead while jogging last year, an Oklahoma court clerk said.

Stephens County Court Judge Jerry Herberger decided there was enough evidence to try Chancey Luna, 16, and Michael Jones, 18, on first-degree murder charges, which in this case could mean life in prison without the possibility of parole if they were convicted.

James Edwards, a third teenager who was in a car with the pair at the time of the shooting and was also charged with first-degree murder, will testify for the prosecution and could have his charges reduced, the clerk said.

Oklahoma law allows for the death sentence for first-degree murder, but people convicted of capital crimes committed before age 18 cannot be sentenced to death in the United States. All three defendants were under 18 when the shooting occurred.

The teenagers are accused of tracking Lane, who police said was shot in the back while jogging in Duncan, Oklahoma, a town about 80 miles south of Oklahoma City. Lane, 23, a Melbourne resident, was attending East Central University in Oklahoma on a baseball scholarship.

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During preliminary hearings, Edwards had testified that Luna fired the pistol that killed Lane and said the gun may have gone off after the car swerved unexpectedly.

He also testified that Luna and Jones said they believed the gun held blanks.

(Reporting by Heide Brandes; writing by Jon Herskovitz; editing by Toni Reinhold)

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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