The outcome of the Ely R. Serna case will be decided through a bench trial as waiver of a jury trial was accepted in the Champaign County Common Pleas Court on March 27.
Instead of a jury trial, the case will be heard before Judge Nick Selvaggio, who will make a ruling following the trial.
The jury trial waiver comes exactly two weeks before trial is scheduled to start on April 10.
Serna, 18, was indicted last summer on 13 charges stemming from a Jan. 20, 2017, shooting at West Liberty-Salem High School.
At the beginning of a March 27 hearing, Selvaggio stated Champaign County Prosecutor Kevin Talebi and Serna’s attorney, Dennis Lieberman, visited his office March 23 and informed the court of Serna’s intent to waive a jury trial.
Selvaggio said at the end of the conversation Lieberman asked if the court had any reservation about sitting on the case. Selvaggio said he interpreted this as Lieberman making sure that the court was appropriately examining its ability to be fair.
After giving thought on the subject over the weekend, Selvaggio said he believes he can be true to his responsibility, focus on testimony and apply the law.
Selvaggio noted there have been cases in which he recused himself when he questioned his partiality prior to a case starting. He added there is nothing specific about the facts in this case that lead him to believe he could not be fair and impartial.
Selvaggio later referenced examples of previous cases in his law career where he prosecuted well-known figures in the community when asked about community pressure and impartiality. He added there are mechanisms for the defense to utilize if they feel it is inappropriate for him to sit on the case.
After the parties reviewed a draft of a proposed waiver, Selvaggio explained to Serna the jury trial selection process, jury trial process and what happens when the jury trial is waived. The waiver of a jury trial was then accepted by the court.
A motion seeking for Serna to appear in civilian clothing during the trial was also approved during the hearing.
Nick Walton can be reached at 937-652-1331 Ext. 1777 or on Twitter @UDCWalton.