FAIRFIELD, Iowa — The attorney for an Iowa teenager accused of helping a classmate kill their high school Spanish teacher argued in court Thursday that his case should be moved from adult to juvenile court, which would allow for his release in less than a year.
Jeremy Goodale and Willard Miller were both 16 when they were arrested in the killing of 66-year-old Nohema Graber, who taught at Fairfield High School. Graber had been beaten to death with a baseball bat. Her body was found Nov. 3 hidden under a tarp, a wheelbarrow and railroad ties at a park in the city, about 95 miles (150 kilometers) southeast of Des Moines. She had been reported missing earlier that day.
Goodale, now 17, and Miller are charged with her first-degree murder.
Goodale's attorney, Allen Cook, presented testimony from a clinical psychologist who diagnosed Goodale with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Cook told Judge Shawn Showers that Goodale should be sent to the juvenile court system where — if he is convicted — he can begin treatment much sooner than if he is convicted as an adult and sent to prison.
Cook also argued that research has shown brains of teenagers are not fully developed and can benefit from early intervention and psychotherapy.
Cook said Goodale's mother left the family when he was 12, that he had to switch schools from the private Maharishi School in Fairfield to the public schools and he felt isolated due to the pandemic.
“These are all factors that we need to take into account, your honor, because again we're dealing with a child,” he said.
He said Goodale has a loving family and a support system in the community if he were to be released and that, despite attempts to portray him as a monster, he is just a kid who would benefit from juvenile rehabilitation programs.
County prosecutor Chauncey Moulding said there's no evidence to show that ADHD caused Goodale's alleged actions. He said Goodale wouldn't be in the juvenile system for long enough to be rehabilitated before his 18th birthday, when he would be released into the community. Two teenagers shouldn't be allowed to be free so soon after allegedly killing someone, he said.
“If that’s what the programming is for such a heinous act, it will be open season on teachers in this country,” Moulding said. “Just the idea of allowing for such a limited consequence for such a heinous crime is completely unspeakable and should never be entered into.”
Goodale and Miller are charged as adults, as required by Iowa court procedures, which say anyone 16 or over charged with a forcible felony is automatically waived to adult court “and is subject to the same criminal procedures and penalties as adults.”
The judge said he would rule “in due course" on the request to move to juvenile court.
The adult sentence for first-degree murder in Iowa is life in prison, although in 2016 the Iowa Supreme Court banned judges from imposing sentences of life without parole for people convicted of murder under age 18. The court said such sentences amount to cruel and unusual punishment under the Iowa Constitution. Goodale and Miller would likely serve lengthy prison sentences if convicted as adults.
Miller's attorneys also requested a hearing on moving his case to juvenile court. It is set for May 6.
The judge scheduled Goodale's trial for Aug. 23 and Miller’s to start Nov. 1.