Court hearings and filings will remain open to the public but media coverage will be partially limited during the trial of a 12-year-old boy accused of attempting to murder a social studies teacher at an Eldridge middle school, Scott County judge Patrick McElyea ruled Wednesday.
Identifiable photographs and names of those under 18, including witnesses, are not allowed to be published or broadcast under the judge’s decision. The order comes after the boy’s attorneys filed motions last week asking the court to bar members of the public and restrict access to certain information.
The boy, whom the Quad-City Times has so far chosen not to publicly identify, is accused of trying to shoot a teacher in the face with a .22 caliber Smith & Wesson at North Scott Jr. High in August. He has been charged with attempted murder, carrying weapons on school grounds and assault while displaying a dangerous weapon.
He has remained in juvenile detention for four months, and his bond has been set at $50,000 cash.
During Wednesday’s hearing, Melanie Thwing, the boy's public defender, asked the court to consider his age, level of education and overall well being, contending that allowing details to be publicly accessible could “come back and haunt him” after his rehabilitation.
“We are not asking that the media be excluded. We do understand that there is (an) interest that the public has in knowing what’s happening in this case,” she said. “We are just trying to make sure that the gallery is not full of — for lack of a better term — a large amount of random people who are just here to watch the show.”
Ian Russell, an attorney with Lane & Waterman, represented the Quad-City Times to argue against the motion regarding public access. He cited First Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution and provisions within Iowa’s constitution as reasons to keep the court from imposing restrictions on the news media.
Several questions remain, including how the boy acquired a gun and what motivated him. But police reports, court filings, and statements from school officials paint a scene of a would-be deadly shooting thwarted by school staff members and the gun’s safety mechanism.
On Aug. 31, police say the boy walked into a classroom with the loaded gun and ordered his classmates to the floor. He pointed the gun at the teacher’s face and pulled the trigger, but the gun’s safety kept it from firing, police said. Police have said the boy forgot to take the safety off, suggesting he intended to kill the teacher.
School staff members were able to get the gun from the boy before police arrived, according to a police report. Investigators also reported 11 bullets were loaded inside the firearm’s removable magazine and one was in the chamber.
Earlier this month, a Scott County judge determined the boy would be tried as a youthful offender in adult court. If he’s convicted, he’ll remain under the supervision of the state’s juvenile court system until he turns 18 years old. At that point, a judge could dismiss the charges, put him in an adult prison, or pick another sentence.
The boy’s arraignment is scheduled for Jan. 17.
Reporter Tara Gray contributed to this story.