Ely Serna and his attorney Dennis Lieberman talk before a hearing in Champaign County Common Pleas Court. JEFF GUERINI/STAFF

School shooting: Judge rules interrogation of accused teen can be used in court

An interrogation of the West Liberty-Salem High School shooting suspect can be used against him in court, a Champaign County judge ruled.

Ely Serna, who was 17 years old when he allegedly brought a shotgun into the school and fired multiple times in 2017, could understand his rights and willingly waived them before speaking with Champaign County Sheriff’s Office Det. Glenn Kemp, Champaign County Judge Nick Selvaggio wrote in a ruling.

RELATED: Defense: West Liberty school shooting suspect had depression

“The court finds that the defendant’s ‘totality of the circumstances surrounding the interrogation reveals both an uncoerced choice and the requisite level of comprehension’ needed to waive each right,” Selvaggio says in his ruling.

West Liberty-Salem student Logan Cole was shot twice. The interrogation took place just hours after the school shooting, Kemp said in court.

A message was left for defense attorney Dennis Leiberman but was not returned Friday.

MORE: West Liberty school shooting suspect Ely Serna to appear in court

The defense in the case argued to the court on Feb. 13 that Ely Serna was suffering from depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and bulimia when he was being interrogated by Kemp. A psychologist and a psychiatrist both said during the hearing that Serna was suffering from the mental disorders when he was being interrogated, but the psychiatrist said he did not believe Serna was suffering enough to be deemed incompetent.

“From the totality of the circumstances, the court finds that it has considered ‘all of the evidence to determine the defendant’s understanding, which can be implied by his conduct and the situation’ and finds that the defendant voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently waived his Miranda rights,” the ruling says.

West Liberty-Salem still healing 1 year after school shooting

Serna’s hands were cuffed from behind in the interview, Kemp said, to preserve evidence that was on him. There were blood and gun residue still on Serna at the time of the interrogation, Kemp said.

A trial against Serna is scheduled to start on April 10 and is expected to last about two weeks. Lieberman said he is still trying to decide whether he wants to waive a jury trial and opt for a bench trial in the case.

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