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Ohio teen competent for trial in school shooting: judge

T.J. Lane (R) sits next to his new attorney Ian Friedman during a hearing into his competency to face trial in Chardon, Ohio, May 2, 2012. R
T.J. Lane (R) sits next to his new attorney Ian Friedman during a hearing into his competency to face trial in Chardon, Ohio, May 2, 2012. R

By Kim Palmer

CHARDON, Ohio (Reuters) - A judge on Wednesday declared a teenager is competent to stand trial on juvenile charges in the deaths of three students and wounding of two in a February shooting rampage at a school in a small Ohio town.

T.J. Lane, 17, who faces three counts of aggravated murder and other charges, came to court wearing a blue, collared shirt and sat next to his defense team.

After a short hearing, Judge Timothy Grendell ruled without objection to accept the findings of Dr. Phillip Resnick, professor of forensic psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University, that Lane was "legally competent" to stand trial.

Resnick told the court that after a nearly seven-hour interview in April, Lane understood his situation and the need to assist his defense.

Lane does suffer from "psychosis," with symptoms that cause him not to react with the proper range of emotions, Resnick said.

"It is my opinion he suffers from mental defect but that does not interfere with his ability to assist in his defense," Resnick told the court during the 30-minute hearing.

Under questioning from Ian Friedman, a member of Lane's defense team, Resnick testified that Lane told him he experienced migraines as far back as elementary school and has also experienced "auditory hallucinations."

Lane has been charged with fatally shooting three of his classmates and wounding two in February. According to authorities, Lane brought a knife and gun to school, randomly shot at students, and fled when a teacher chased him from the school building.

One of the victims, 17-year-old Nick Walzac who was shot at least four times, has been released from a rehabilitation facility. Doctors do not know if he will ever walk unassisted again.

The Chardon High School prom is scheduled for Friday at Cleveland's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Lane's next court appearance is scheduled for May 24 and will determine if he will be tried as an adult. Ohio law requires a mandatory transfer to adult court if a juvenile is charged with a serious offense and is older than 15.

If tried as an adult, Lane's attorney's can request another competency hearing because the ruling on Wednesday applies only to proceedings in juvenile court.

(Editing by Greg McCune and Mohammad Zargham)

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