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Thursday, November 29, 2012

12-Year-Old To Prison For 25 Years In Indiana

Indiana appeals court raises questions in case that sent 12-year-old to prison for 25 years Paul Henry Gingerich was 12-years-old when he arrived at the Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility in 2011 The future of a boy believed to be the youngest Hoosier ever sentenced to prison as an adult rests now in the hands of three judges who today raised pointed questions about whether his case was handled properly. The Indiana Court of Appeals panel heard 40 minutes of arguments in the case of Paul Henry Gingerich, a 14-year-old who’s been imprisoned the last 2 1/2 years after he pleaded guilty, at age 12, to conspiracy commit murder in the 2010 killing of his friend’s stepfather in Kosciusko County. A decision could take several weeks. The judges’ questions seemed to focus in on whether it was proper that Gingerich’s case was moved out of juvenile court, whether his attorneys had enough time to argue that it should stay and, given all that, his eventual guilty plea wasn’t valid. Gingerich, who is serving time at the Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility that could keep him in jail until age 24, was not present for the hearing. But his parents, two sisters, grandfather and a host of cousins helped fill the Supreme Court room where the appeals panel heard the arguments. His attorney, Monica Foster, argued that Gingerich -- an 80-pound sixth grader at the time of the crime -- didn’t understand the proceedings well enough for the case to be moved to adult court. She also said the four days his attorneys had to prepare for the waiver-to-adult-court hearing was inadequate -- that defense attorneys in Marion County, by contrast, typically get three months. She said a psychologist who examined the boy was concerned about his competence to stand trial in adult court and that brain research on the development of youth would have aided his case. The three appellate judges -- James S. Kirsch, John G. Baker and Elaine B. Brown -- quizzed Foster on some matters of law, but their most poignant question was about the risks Gingerich faces if they rule in his favor and give him a legal do-over. In other words, if the process is repeated and he’s again moved to adult court -- at age 15 by the time a new case would be heard -- who’s to say he might not get a stiffer punishment?

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