Judge confirms Joplin teen will be tried as adult in school shooting case

Wednesday, July 25, 2007 | 2:00 p.m. CDT; updated 9:04 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

JOPLIN — A Joplin teenager charged with firing an assault rifle in his middle school will go to trial as an adult and not be sent back to the juvenile system, a judge ruled Tuesday.

Jasper County Circuit Judge David Mouton dismissed arguments from Thomas White’s lawyers and set an Aug. 20 trial date. The judge upheld another court’s decision that White can be tried as an adult.

White, 14, faces four felony counts related to the school shooting in October and a charge of attempted escape from juvenile custody.

White was 13 at the time of the October shooting. Nobody was injured in the incident, when White allegedly fired a single shot into the ceiling before the gun jammed.

He was certified in December to stand trial as an adult.

Defense lawyers argued in a hearing Friday that the certification was flawed and that White should be sent back to the juvenile system.

Mouton ruled Tuesday that White had been afforded due process.

Thomas’ mother, Norma White, said Tuesday that she was disappointed in the ruling.

“I am hoping at some point along the way someone will see that these kids who get in trouble like this need to go through the juvenile system first,” she said. “That’s the whole reason we have a juvenile system.”

White is one of the youngest offenders ever to be certified as an adult in the state. Three St. Louis girls, two 14-year-olds and one who was 13, were tried as adults in a 2004-2005 murder case.

If White is convicted, he faces an approach to juvenile crime known as blended sentencing and a state program involving dual courts’ jurisdiction.

The court could sentence White jointly to the Department of Corrections and the Division of Youth Services, with the adult portion of the sentence suspended upon completion of the juvenile sentence.

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