Teens in shackles as charges read

The boys looked terribly young and more stunned than scared when they were led individually into a packed courtroom in rural Oklahoma to face charges over the murder of Christopher Lane, an Australian they had never met.

The prosecutor, Jason Hicks, repeated the terrible details already shared by police - that Mr Lane, who was visiting his girlfriend, Sarah Harper had jogged past the boys as they sat around outside a house on Friday afternoon; that they selected him as a target, followed him in a car and shot him about four minutes later.

For people trying to understand what drove the boys to kill Mr Lane, their brief court appearances offered a few hints but no answers beyond the information already released by police: that they were bored.

Chancey Allen Luna, 16, is accused of pulling the trigger of the .22-calibre handgun used to kill Mr Lane. He was charged with first-degree murder and refused a bond before being led away in his orange prison pyjamas, shackled hand and foot.

As he stood before the judge, his mother, sitting in the third row, was handed documents detailing her son's rights. Her hands shook as she gripped the papers and she sobbed as he was led away.

Two rows in front of her, Cindy Harper, Sarah's mother, sat quietly throughout the proceedings.

James Francis Edwards jnr, 15, is alleged to have been a passenger in the car and was also charged with first-degree murder. Mr Hicks said the youth had been cold and callous throughout the proceedings.

The prosecutor said that as James stood before officers at the charging counter he danced, and had since treated the matter as a ''joke''.

Mr Hicks noted that a short time after the murder James appeared in the very courthouse he was formally charged in to attend a court-ordered supervision meeting for earlier offences.

But the boy's court-appointed lawyer, Jim Berry, told Fairfax Media that his client took the matter seriously, and denied his attitude was callous. ''He is very upset,'' he said.

As he was led away, more sobbing could be heard throughout the small court.

Outside the court his father, James Edwards snr, said he stood by his boy, an athlete who dreamt of competing as a wrestler in the Olympic Games. He said James was a happy boy who, while being known to police, had not been in serious trouble before. He did not believe his son could have been responsible for the killing, adding he had heard rumours the boys were ''wannabe gangsters'', but only since the shooting.

Duncan's police chief had told media earlier the boys ''wanted to be Billy Bob badasses'' .

Mr Edwards said his son did not grow up around guns. ''He said to me, 'Dad, why don't we have guns around the house?' and I said, 'Because I don't need no guns'.''

James' older sister, Rachel Padilla, said she believed racism was a factor in the charges, with the two African-American boys receiving the tougher charges.

The eldest of the trio is Michael Dewayne Jones, 17. He has been charged with being an accessory after the fact of first-degree murder and a vehicle and firearm offence. He also faces what Mr Hicks called ''a long, long sentence'' if convicted, but Mr Hicks told the court he had co-operated with police and the district attorney. His bond was set at $US1 million ($1.1 million).

Because of the seriousness of the charges not guilty pleas were automatically entered on the boys' behalf and they were given no opportunity to address the court at any length, with the judge silencing one when he made to offer details of the crime.

While many of their supporters sobbed openly, the trio remained mostly silent, making little attempt to even meet the eyes of those in court. They raised their shackled hands to take their oaths and offered quiet responses when the judge asked if they understood the process and their rights.

Over the road from the grassy verge where Mr Lane died lives Roy Burke, the head football coach of the local middle school. He remembers Sarah Harper from when he taught her PE when she was at Will Rogers Elementary School.

''You think things like this don't happen in your town, but obviously they happen anywhere,'' he said.

''Bad things happen to good people.''

This story Teens in shackles as charges read first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.