The shooting at Noblesville West Middle School last year has legislators looking to change state law so that children as young as 12 could face attempted murder charges in adult court.
The Indiana Senate voted 45-3 Monday in favor of a bill under which prosecutors could ask a judge to move such cases involving 12- and 13-year-old youths from juvenile court — same as they can currently do in murder cases.
Prosecutors couldn’t seek adult charges against the 13-year-old boy who wounded classmate Ella Whistler and seventh-grade science teacher Jason Seaman at the Noblesville school because no one died in the May 25 attack. The current age cutoff for possible adult charges in attempted murder cases is 14.
While the boy admitted to the attack, a judge was only able in November to order that he be held in a state juvenile detention center until he’s 18 or deemed rehabilitated.
Bill sponsor Republican Sen. Erin Houchin of Salem argued that justice wasn’t served because of what she called a legal loophole.
“This was a 13-year-old child who tried to commit mass murder,” Houchin said. “Just by the grace of God and the heroism of Jason Seaman and the first responders and doctors who saved the lives of those two individuals this juvenile was not allowed to be waived to adult court.”
Opponents maintain children so young don’t belong in the adult court system because they often don’t understand the consequences of their actions.
Democratic Sen. Greg Taylor of Indianapolis said he didn’t believe 12-year-olds should face being sent to prison.
“You know this is going to be disproportionately applied to young black boys,” Taylor said. “Not intentional, it is just going to happen that way.”
Houchin and other supporters of the change say judges will still make the final decision on whether it is appropriate to move such cases to adult court.
The bill now goes to the House for consideration.