The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

July 30, 2008

Court expected to rule on teen’s competency


By Greg Grisolano

ggrisolano@joplinglobe.com

A hearing to determine the mental competency of 15-year-old Thomas White has been scheduled for 9 a.m. on Aug. 8 in Division 3 of Jasper County Circuit Court, according to the boy’s court-appointed attorney.

Brett Meeker, one of two public defenders appointed to represent White, said the results of a court-ordered competency evaluation state that her client is not competent enough to stand trial. She said Judge David Mouton still has to issue a ruling whether to remand her client to the Department of Mental Health or continue with court proceedings.

“It still has to go before the judge,” Meeker said. “Typically at this point, the judge commits the defendant to the Department of Mental Health for six months to see if they can restore competency.”

White is awaiting trial on five felony counts stemming from an assault-rifle case Oct. 9, 2006, at Memorial Middle School.

The teen was ordered at a hearing on June 13 to undergo an examination for mental competency. His attorneys asked for the examination in light of recent evaluations of their client by a doctor and a psychologist suggesting that an extended jail stay was wearing on the boy’s mental health and that the teen might be schizophrenic.

The court-ordered examination was conducted by the Western Missouri Mental Health Center in Kansas City.

The boy is accused of taking the assault rifle to his school, threatening teachers and students with it, and then firing it into the ceiling of a school hallway. He also is accused of trying to shoot the principal as he was ushering the boy out of the building. He is facing two counts of first-degree assault, and single counts of armed criminal action, unlawful use of a weapon and attempted escape.

Meeker said she was not sure which center her client would end up in if the judge decided to have him committed.

“He presents a different set of circumstances, because of his age,” she said.





Background



Thomas White has been held in segregation at the Jasper County Jail on $250,000 bond since being certified to stand trial as an adult in December 2006. Possible trial dates of Dec. 8-10 and Jan. 5-7 have been set in the case.