Judge accepts West Liberty suspect’s insanity plea, orders hearing

June 27, 2017
  • By Parker Perry
  • Staff Writer
Jeff Guerini
Ely Serna and his attorney, Dennis Lieberman were back in Champaign County Juvenile Court for a competency hearing. JEFF GUERINI/STAFF

A Champaign County judge has agreed to allow the suspect in the West Liberty-Salem school shooting to plead not guilty by reason of insanity.

Champaign County Common Pleas Court Judge Nick Selvaggio accepted the plea entered by Ely Serna, 17, and granted a motion to allow a forensic psychologist to conduct a mental evaluation on him.

MORE: Judge orders competency hearing for West Liberty shooting suspect

Selvaggio also ordered a hearing date for another motion filed by the defense. That hearing is scheduled for July 13. The motion seeks dismissal of the case in common pleas court and to transfer the case back to juvenile court. Ely’s attorney, Dennis Lieberman, said in a motion that he felt his client had a right to an amenability hearing but was denied it by Champaign County Judge Lori Reisinger.

Throughout the last several months the Ohio Supreme Court has tried to decide what’s the proper process a juvenile should go through before being charged as an adult. The law on Jan. 20 — the day of the shooting — was that juveniles were entitled to the hearing.

MORE: West Liberty victim attends court hearing for accused shooter

An amenability hearing reviews a juvenile offender’s likelihood of rehabilitation in the juvenile justice system.

The law has since changed to allow juveniles to be transferred to adult court without a hearing. Lieberman contends the courts should follow the law of the date the alleged incident occurred.

“It is a violation of due process of law for Ely Serna to be denied an amenability hearing,” the motion reads.

MORE: Ely Serna, West Liberty-Salem school shooting suspect, in court

If the motion is granted, the case would go back to juvenile court which would likely slow the legal process. Selvaggio said during a recent hearing that he would like to try to finish a jury trial before West Liberty-Salem goes back to school in the beginning of September.

In an interview with the Springfield News-Sun, Lieberman also said he has specific reasons why he believes his client was insane at the time of the shooting. However, he declined to give those reasons in the interview.