CHARDON: A judge handling an Ohio teenager’s trial stemming from a deadly school shooting has refused to exclude recorded comments made by the suspect’s relatives while they were in a police interrogation room.
Geauga County Judge David Fuhry rejected the effort by T.J. Lane’s defense to rule out the conversations for his murder trial next month.
In a ruling Thursday, Fuhry agreed with prosecutors’ argument that there was no reasonable expectation of privacy while Lane’s parents, grandparents and teenage sister talked among themselves because they were in a police interview room, although not in the presence of officers. The privacy expectation is key in determining whether intercepted communications violate wiretap laws.
“They knew or should have known that this was an interrogation room and not a private area where private conversations can take place,” the ruling said.
A defense attorney declined to comment Friday on the ruling.
Lane, 18, is being tried as an adult in the Feb. 27 shootings at Chardon High School that left three students dead and others wounded. He has filed an insanity plea and faces up to life in prison without chance of parole if convicted.
Investigators say Lane admitted shooting at students but couldn’t say why.
His relatives were taken to the police station after the shootings, and the family was left alone in the interview room before police separately questioned each person, according to court documents. The relatives testified they were unaware of recorded surveillance of their personal conversations in the interview room.
Fuhry’s ruling said it’s possible those conversations could be ruled inadmissible for other reasons, but he rejected the defense’s contention that the family had a reasonable expectation of privacy and therefore the statements should be ruled out for Lane’s trial.
The trial, scheduled to begin Jan. 14, is expected to draw extra attention in the wake of the Connecticut elementary school massacre this month that left 20 first-grade students and six adults dead.