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Oklahoma teens plead not guilty to murder of Australian athlete

By Heide Brandes

OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) - Two Oklahoma teenagers charged with first-degree murder in the death of an Australian baseball player attending a university in the state pleaded not guilty at an arraignment on Thursday, a court clerk said.

Michael Jones, 18, and Chancey Luna, 16, also waived their right to a speedy trial at the arraignment at the Stephens County Court before Judge Joe Enos. They will go on trial on August 18, the court clerk said.

The two are accused of shooting Chris Lane, 22, in the back as he was jogging in August 2013 near East Central University. Lane, an athlete from Melbourne, was a student on a baseball scholarship at the school.

A third teen also in the car, James Edwards Jr., has agreed to testify against the two other defendants in the hopes of a lesser charge, prosecutors 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.

During preliminary hearings, Edwards testified that Luna shot the gun that killed Lane from a car Jones was driving. He also testified that both indicated they thought the gun held blanks.

The incident took place in Duncan, Oklahoma, about 80 miles south of Oklahoma City.

(Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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