Current state statute does not allow 12- and 13-year-olds charged with attempted murder to be sent to adult court – on Tuesday Indiana lawmakers introduced a bill that would change that.
The bill was filed, in part, as a response to last year’s shooting at Noblesville West Middle School where a student shot a teacher and classmate.
In November, the 13-year-old confessed to 11 counts, including attempted murder. Under Indiana law, he was too young to be waived to adult court – if one year older, however, he could have been charged as an adult.
The judge gave the boy the harshest available disposition – similar to sentencing. The boy could be released from a juvenile facility at 18, or possibly sooner if he completes mandated programming.
This bill would essentially allow for harsher sentences in cases like these. It would also give prosecutors and judges the option to waive the case to adult court if they feel it's in the child and community's best interest.
Teacher Jason Seaman, who tackled the shooter and was shot three times, testified in support of the bill. He says he still suffers physical pain and feels justice was not served.
"My pain and suffering will withstand long before the person who shot me will have his freedom and his ability to be out in public again," Seaman says.
Ella Whistler, the classmate shot seven times, will never fully recover from her injuries. Her father, Cory Whistler also spoke in support of the bill.
"A big thing for my daughter, and every now and then she still talks about, is when he gets out he’s going to come back after her," Cory Whistler says.
Some who oppose the bill say children can be rehabilitated and should stay in the juvenile system, which is more tailored towards mental health programs and families.
The bill includes an amendment that would prevent released juveniles from buying a gun until they are at least 26-years-old.