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Judges reverse teen’s conspiracy to commit murder conviction

December 11, 2012

The Indiana Court of Appeals has reversed Paul Henry Gingerich’s conviction of Class A felony conspiracy to commit murder, finding the Kosciusko juvenile court abused its discretion in denying the then-12-year-old’s request for a continuance of a waiver hearing.

In April 2010, Gingerich and 15-year-old Colt Lundy shot and killed Lundy’s stepfather and then took off for Arizona. Police apprehended them in Illinois. At the time of the murder, Gingerich was a little over 5-feet tall, weighed 80 pounds and was a sixth grader.

At the April 22, 2010, probable cause hearing, the court set a hearing on the state’s motion to waive juvenile jurisdiction for April 29. Gingerich’s attorney sought a continuance to allow time to prepare witnesses, obtain a psychological evaluation of Gingerich, and review exhibits and reports, but the trial court denied the motion for continuance.

At the hearing, Gingerich’s attorney again sought a continuance, which was again denied. A county probation officer testified that there was only one facility that could take a juvenile convicted of homicide. The officer misstated that there is no parole in the juvenile Department of Corrections and other facts pertaining to juvenile law. Gingerich and Lundy were waived into adult court and Gingerich eventually pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of Class A felony conspiracy to commit murder.

The Marion County Public Defender Agency and the Children’s Law Center filed amicus curiae briefs in the case. The MCPDA in its brief argued that a full investigation is a necessary and statutorily required prerequisite to a wavier, and that juveniles in Marion County who face being waved into adult court typically get at least three months to investigate and prepare for the hearing. The CLC also argued that juveniles should have time to prepare for a waiver hearing.

The state claimed, among other things, that Gingerich hasn’t shown that he was prejudiced by the denial of his continuance, and that by pleading guilty, Gingerich “tacitly admit[ted] that he could not have met his statutory burden.”

“We note that Ind. Code § 31-30-3-4 implicates valid liberty interests held by Gingerich. As he notes, Ind. Code § 31-30-1-1 vests ‘exclusive original jurisdiction’ in the juvenile court over a child who is alleged to, before becoming eighteen years of age, commit a delinquent act,” Judge Elaine Brown wrote for the court. “Also, Ind. Code § 31-30-3-4 provides for a ‘full investigation and hearing’ prior to juvenile jurisdiction being waived.

“Thus, at the outset of the filing of the delinquency petition Gingerich enjoyed the panoply of protections associated with being tried in the juvenile system, and he was entitled to a full investigation and hearing prior to the court ordering waiver. Accordingly, Gingerich’s liberty was at stake when the State moved to waive Gingerich into adult court.”

The judges ordered further proceedings on the matter consistent with their opinion, Paul Henry Gingerich v. State of Indiana, 43A05-1101-CR-27.
 

 

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