URBANA — Accused juvenile shooter Ely Serna pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity for the Jan. 20 shooting at West Liberty-Salem High School.
His attorney, Dennis A. Lieberman, filed the plea and three motions with the Champaign County Common Pleas Court on Wednesday.
On Jan. 20, two students were injured, including West Liberty-Salem High student Logan Cole.
Serna, 17, was indicted June 13 on 13 charges, including two counts of attempted murder, three counts of felonious assault, six counts of improperly discharging a firearm at or into a habitation or a school safety zone, and one count each of inducing panic and illegal conveyance or possession of a deadly weapon or dangerous ordnance in a school safety zone.
Lieberman filed a motion to dismiss the court case in Common Pleas Court and transfer it to the juvenile division; a motion to suppress statements and other evidence from Serna’s interrogation by law enforcement; and a motion authorizing Forensic Psychologist Dr. Daniel Davis to have access to Serna in the Central Ohio Youth Center.
The motion to dismiss states the law changed between Jan. 20 and the decision to move the case to adult court. The law originally indicated a mandatory transfer to adult court was prohibited, as it violated a youth’s due process rights, the motion states. In February, a stay was issued in the case Ohio v. Aalim, seeking reconsideration. On May 25, the Ohio Supreme Court determined mandatory transfers were allowed in Ohio law.
Lieberman’s motion states: “From Dec. 22, 2016 until May 25, 2017, mandatory transfers were prohibited by law.”
On June 12, Serna’s case in juvenile court had a mandatory transfer to adult court under the May Aalim decision. But that decision was not in effect on the date of the alleged shooting, Lieberman stated in the motion.
“Ely Serna is entitled to rely on the law which was in affect (sic) on Jan. 20, 2017. To now eliminate his opportunity to be treated as a juvenile and not an adult violates his right of due process,” Lieberman states in the motion.
Lieberman’s motion to suppress statements and evidence from Serna’s interrogation by law enforcement following the shooting states Serna’s Miranda rights were “not knowingly and voluntarily waived” by Serna. Lieberman requests the court “suppress any and all evidence which is the fruit of the illegal interrogation.”
The motion states that law enforcement violated Serna’s Fifth, Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment rights in the U.S. Constitution and Article I of the Ohio Constitution against self-incrimination and that Serna was not apprised of those rights before the interrogation by government authorities.
Lieberman states in his motion Serna was placed in handcuffs Jan. 20, taken to the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office, and interrogated there. He said detectives read Serna his Miranda rights, but stated Serna was unable to sign such rights.
“The officers never attempted to contact the Defendants (sic) parents prior to questioning him. Furthermore, the defendant made a statement he was suicidal, showing that there were signs of mental health issues.”
Lieberman argues “special caution” should be given to a review of a juvenile’s pretrial statement under prior court decisions. Further, statements made by Serna in the interrogation “were not made voluntarily and were made without the benefit of counsel. Therefore, he did not voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently waive his rights, rendering any and all evidence obtained as a result of his interrogation inadmissible.”
Lieberman’s final motion requests Forensic Psychologist Dr. Daniel Davis to have access to Serna in the Central Ohio Youth Center. Davis, a Columbus psychologist, provides counseling for families and their children, adolescents and adults, and provides forensic psychological consultations and evaluations, according to his resume. The resume is included in the motion. The Serna family retained Davis to evaluate Ely Serna’s mental health issues in support of his plea of not guilty by reason of insanity.
No court dates to review these motions have been set.
Casey S. Elliott may be reached at 937-652-1331 ext. 1772 or on Twitter @UDCElliott.