Middle-school shooter could be tried as adult
Sep. 21, 2007
Lawyers for Thomas G. White, the Joplin middle-school student who was charged with first-degree assault and armed criminal action, want to stop court proceedings that would try the 14-year-old as an adult.
In 2006, White carried a firearm into Memorial Middle School in Joplin and fired a MAC assault rifle into the ceiling of the school. No faculty or students were harmed during the shooting, according to Missouri court documents.
Following his initial arrest, White was tried in juvenile court. Charles Lonardo, White's attorney during his initial trial, said that during the trial, child psychologist Kevin Whisman argued that although White was physically 13 at the time of the shooting, White was "only about 10 or 11 mentally."
When Judge William Crawford ruled that White should be charged as an adult, the Public Defender's Office took over the case.
"The Public Defender's Office has more resources to handle this case than I do," Lonardo said. "I would be over my head with this case."
Lonardo said White's family could not afford a private attorney.
Darren Wallace, the public defender in charge of White's case, said he has filed a writ of prohibition, which would attempt to reverse the decision to try the 14-year-old as an adult.
The writ stated White "received ineffective assistance of council at his certification hearing." Wallace said if the writ is denied, White's case will proceed to adult criminal court.
Jasper County Prosecuting Attorney Dean Dankleson said his office will submit a brief challenging the claims of White's defense.
"The court's original decision was correct," Dankleson said. "White received a full and fair hearing."