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Gingerich trial stirs juvenile advocates

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Paul Henry Gingerich was 12 when Colt Lundy, 15, opened and closed the blinds inside his house in Cromwell, Ind., signaling the younger boy. Boosted by another 12-year-old, Gingerich climbed in through the window.

Lundy had a plan for the three boys to run away to Arizona, where his biological father lived. But first, he had to kill his stepfather, Phillip Danner. Gingerich later told authorities that he had hoped to persuade Lundy not to carry out his plan, according to court documents. But events quickly unfolded that April evening in 2010 that Gingerich later described as seeming “not real.”

gingerich-1col.jpg Paul Henry Gingerich, now 14, is appealing his 25-year sentence after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder. (Photo submitted)

Lundy slipped a 40-caliber Glock semiautomatic pistol into Gingerich’s hand. As Lundy trained his handgun on Danner as the man entered a doorway, Gingerich’s small hand rose likewise. Lundy fired. Gingerich says he closed his eyes and pulled the trigger. Danner was killed.

With Lundy behind the wheel of Danner’s car later that evening, he entered “Arizona” in a GPS and headed west. The boys were arrested after they stopped at a store in Peru, Ill., and a police officer grew suspicious about three children out in the middle of the night.

Gingerich, who had no juvenile criminal history, and Lundy were waived from juvenile court and sentenced by Kosciusko Circuit Judge Rex Reed to serve 25 years in prison as adults after they pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder. Gingerich is believed to be the youngest person in Indiana sentenced as an adult. His appeal will be heard Oct. 30.

“I am very, very committed to this kid. He’s a good boy,” said appellate defense attorney Monica Foster, who argues that the trial court failed to determine Gingerich’s competency and denied him due process by rejecting his attorney’s pleas for a continuance after just four days to prepare for a hearing on whether Gingerich should be waived from juvenile to adult court. Foster argues that juvenile and trial court errors were so great that Gingerich’s plea agreement and conviction should be vacated.

Gingerich’s case has rallied those who question the merits of adult penalties for youthful offenders. Indiana Code 31-30-3-4, revised in 1997, allows that anyone over age 10 may be waived to adult court on a charge that would be murder if committed by an adult. That’s among the youngest in the nation, said Bill Glick, executive director of the Indiana Juvenile Justice Task Force Inc.

gingerich“It’s really completely inappropriate,” Glick said. “Especially given what we now know about adolescent brain development and youth brain development.”

But prosecutors argue that Gingerich waived his right to appeal when his parents, Nicole and Paul Gingerich, consented to a plea agreement. “The waivers signed by the defendant and his parents were clear and unambiguous,” the state argues in court pleadings. “Enforcing the plea agreement entered into by a minor with the assistance of his parents and his lawyers is sound public policy. The defendant waived the right to challenge his conviction and to raise claims of legal and procedural error by pleading guilty.”

Gingerich’s parents signed a plea agreement after the state reduced the adult murder charge to conspiracy to commit murder, cutting the sentencing range by 20 years. “That he was looking down the barrel of a 45- to 65-year sentence must have weighed heavily on his and his parents’ thought processes,” the defense says on appeal. “A 12-year-old boy really has no meaningful ‘choice’ in this situation.”

Reed, the Kosciusko judge, said in court that the plea was sufficient to balance Gingerich’s age with the nature of the crime. “I have tried to explain that I believe the opportunity provided by the state of Indiana to go from a murder charge to a conspiracy to commit murder charge … offsets any aggravators or mitigators,” Reed said, according to court transcripts.

Before accepting the guilty plea, Reed rejected a defense request to put Gingerich’s case back in juvenile court. “I just don’t think I’ve got the discretion to say, ‘I don’t like this kind of a case, so I’m going to send it back,’” he said in court. Reed did not return telephone messages seeking comment.

Reed sentenced Gingerich to serve time at Wabash Valley Correctional Facility, which holds more than 2,000 adult felons in minimum and maximum security. Gingerich was 5-feet, 2-inches tall and weighed about 80 pounds at the time of his sentencing, and the Indiana Department of Correction instead placed Gingerich in the Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility.

Though Gingerich would have been sent to the youth incarcerated as adults unit at Wabash Valley, DOC spokesman Doug Garrison said there were a number of practical reasons not to place him there. “This kid would have been by far the youngest person over there, he’s very small in stature, and he’s better off for the time being with people closer to his own age,” Garrison said.

Garrison said there are 56 youths presently housed at the youth incarcerated as adults unit at Wabash Valley. According to DOC, 98 juveniles between age 15 and 17 have been sentenced as adults since 2010.

The case has generated several amicus briefs requesting Gingerich’s conviction be vacated. Michael Jenuwine of the Notre Dame Legal Aid Clinic filed a brief on behalf of Children’s Law Center, Inc., the National Juvenile Defender Center and Campaign for Youth Justice. He wrote that three U.S. Supreme Court decisions since 2005 “carved out separate jurisprudence with respect to children, differentiating them from adults based on their lessened culpability and greater amenability to rehabilitation.”

Another friend-of-the-court brief suggests that the process in Gingerich’s case moved far too fast, and that the defense attorney’s request for a continuance should have been granted. The Marion County Public Defender Agency said the four days Gingerich’s attorney had to prepare for his waiver hearing contrasted to the three months it is typically granted to investigate and prepare by gathering school and medical records and interviewing friends, family members and others.

The amount of time Gingerich’s attorney had to prepare for the waiver hearing interests Karen Grau, too. Grau is president and executive producer of Indianapolis-based documentary filmmakers Calamari Productions, which specializes in juvenile justice issues. She’s directed coverage of Gingerich’s and Lundy’s cases for about two years, including MSNBC’s “Young Kids, Hard Time.”

“The fact that Paul was so young when he was sentenced and the legal process was so fast,” Grau said, “that definitely warrants public exploration. How is that the case? Why is that the case?”

Grau and at least one other international documentary filmmaker have asked the COA for permission to record oral arguments in Gingerich’s appeal.

“The way Kosciusko County handled this from beginning to end was awful,” said Dan Dailey, who runs The Redemption Project. The nonprofit hosts a website – www.redemptionforkids.org – that raises money for Gingerich and other young offenders sentenced as adults.

“Paul is a Mr. Fix-It. He entered that house intending to de-escalate the situation and never really believed it was going to happen,” Dailey said. “His performance in prison reinforces that.” He said Gingerich is among the best students at Pendleton and is on the student council selected by facility staff.

Dailey said evidence about Gingerich’s character and more never got a day in court. He said Gingerich’s case remains rife with unanswered questions, particularly about motive. “The police never really figured out what happened,” he said. “The truth has never really come out.”•
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  • let's hope justice prevails
    Although this kid committed a terrible act surely the justice system will prevail and reverse the error of its ways. This would never happen in Australia where I come from. I pray for Paul Henry and hope his young Life is returned to him at 21.

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  1. Am I the only one who sees that the City is essentially giving away the MSA site AND giving millions to build new buildings on the site when this site would be the perfect place for the Justice Complex? Across from City-County, check; keeping it centrally located, check, etc. It's my understanding that the GM site must be purchased by the City from Motors Liquidation Company. STOP WASTING WHAT WE ALREADY HAVE AND OUR TAX DOLLARS! The Ballard Administration has not been known for it's common sense...never voted for him and never will!

  2. This guy sounds like the classic molester/manipulator.

  3. Louis D. Brandeis was born in 1856. At 9 years of age it would have been 1865. The Brandeis family did not own slaves. My source Louis D. Brandeis: A Life, by Melvin L. Urofsky.

  4. My name is Matthew Lucas Major, I recently went through a jury trial in Bloomington , In. It was the week of Feb 19-21. Although I have been incarcerated since August 5, 2014. The reason I 'am writing to you sir is on the 21 of February the jury came in with a very excessive and wrongful verdict of guilty on 6 child molesting charges against my daughter who was 9 at the time I was accused. I also had 2 other Felonies one of Intimidation and 1 of Sexual Vicarious Gratification. Judge Marc Kellam on the second day of trial gave me a not guilty on those 2 felonies. The jury was sent out during that time and when brought back Judge Kellam told them to not concern themselves with the 2 Felonies that he ruled on them. They were told to not let evidence they had already heard influence there verdicts. I never in my life touched any child sexually and definitely not with my own daughter. When I was arrested Detective Shawn Karr told me I would be convicted guilty just on my daughters word even without evidence. That's just what happened. my public defender did me so wrong he never once proved to the court and jury all the lies the child told, and Jeremy Noel my public defender could of proven the lies easily. The stories in Serenity's depositions and Forensic interview changed and were not consistent as Prosecutor Darcie Fawcett claimed they were. Yet my attorney never mentioned that. The facts that the child accused me of full penetration in her vagina and rectum was proven lies. Doctor Roberta Hibbard of Riley hospital in Indianapolis confirmed Serenity's hymen intact, no scars, no tearing, no signs of rape to her. Yet my attorney didn't use that knowledge . the DNA was all in my favor. I tell you I will spend my entire life in prison going through rape and beatings etc. even Judge Kellam abused his authority by telling the jurors to listen and believe what the prosecutors side in evidence like my daughters testimony. In one interview with the detectives my daughter got flustered with her mom and said on camera " I'm saying what you told me to mom"!! Yet Mr. Noel said nor did anything to even resemble a defense attorney. Judge Kellam allowed edited version of a taped conversation between the child and her mother. Also Judge Kellam allowed the Prosecutor too bring in to my case a knife found under my seat, the knife wasn't part of my case. She was allowed by my attorney and the judge to put a huge picture of it on the screen and huge picture of my naked privates in a full courtroom and open court. Ms. Fawcett says to jury see how easy Mr. Major could reach the knife and cut his Childs throat. Even though I had no weapons charge against these cases. This gave the jurors prejudice thought against me thinking I threatened her with that knife and how scared she would of been knowing i could get it and kill her. On my sentencing court March 19, 2014 my public defender told Judge Kellam he wish to resign from being my attorney and wished for the court to give me outside council to file a error to trial or appeal. We were denied. Now after openly knowing my public defender don't want to represent me he has to. Well when as parents we make our kids clean a room when they really don't wish to, well the child will but don't mean she will do a good job, that's where I'm at with Mr. Noel. please dont ignore mine and my families pleas for your help . we have all the legal proof you could need to prove Im innocent. Please dont make my spend years in prison innocent when you can fix this wrong. Im not saying Im a perfect man or that I was a perfect dad to my 2 children none of us are. Ive made some bad choices in life and I paid for them. But I didnt ever touch or rape my daughter . I love my children with all my heart. And now through needing attention and a ex-wife who told my granny several times she wish she could put me in prison to get me out of their lives. Well my ex finally accomplished her goal. Sad part is she is destroying our daughter with all this horrific lies and things she taught my daughter to say. My daughter will need therapist to ever hope for a chance of a normal life after what she had done to her by her mom and their side of the family. My daughter told everyone even on stand she had a dream months before i supposedly molested her in this dream I was molesting her and when I finally did it matched her dream perfectly. She admitted to watching movies about little girls being molested and watching U-Tube videos about child molesting all before it happened supposedly to her. Doesn't that sound very unusual that a non molested 9 yr old would need to know so much about being molested? The only reason I could think a 9 year old would need so much information is to be prepared to know what to say and be able to say how it felt what took place etc.. So when questioned by authorities she would be prepared. And there again sir if a parent is pre grooming a 9 year old child she would need intimate details . Like telling her daughter about a couple moles on my private area. The child admitted to sneaking my cell and looking many many times at nudes of me and my girlfriend even one where my penis was entering my girlfriends vagina. In that picture my moles are obvious. Yet when prosecutor showed everyone in court my privates and pictures of the moles she said the only way the child would know about them is if she saw them for herself. My attorney once again said nothing about the pictures my child saw. Or could a ex-wife be able to describe my moles to help her case against getting rid of me? I beg you help me. This is my very existence. Ive lost everything , a good job, a wonderful girlfriend, my freedom, but worse thing Ive lost is my children. They were my reason to get up every morning and strive to be better. The wonderful bond I had with my Serenity is gone. After this I would be afraid to even hug her for fear of what next can they do to me. I'm not afraid to tell you I sit here in this cell and try to hold back my tears. Everyone knows you cant show weakness in prison. My life has already been threatened here at Wabash Valley Prison. After only 3 days of arrival. I was tricked into signing a waiver now Im in G Block General Population with 6 child molesting felony charges. Mrs. Hart as a 18 year old I almost died hooked to machines in hospital almost 1 month and now I know that fear was childish compared to this . I cant help but put emotions in this, after all Mrs. Hart Im human and God help Me I never been more afraid in my life. I didnt hurt my little girl I didnt touch her sexually. As much as it shreds me and fills my mind what Im facing I worry more about my mom and granny because of their great love for me mam they are suffering so deeply. I aint done this things but my loved ones suffering right along beside me and If you take my case you will be in essence freeing them also. I sent momma this letter and asked her to email it to you. I'm scared I have been done so unjustly by our legal system and I need you to fix this and give me freedom. I ask you please don't just ignore my pleas. Here in America its nice to be able to trust our legal justice system, well they destroyed my and my loved ones trust in our justice system . And I'm trusting in You !!! My entire family is suffering this nightmare with me. My 77 year old granny had a stroke and isn't doing so well. My single mother that raised 3 kids alone is dying from Lupus and since my arrest has stayed so sick and weary. Our lives torn to peices by a government I was taught I could trust in. my momma has tried so many innocent project and wrongfully accused and cant get anywhere. please please help me. A quote from the late Nelson Mandela: To be free is not merely to cast off ones chains, But to live in a way that respects and enhances The Freedom Of Others. I have Faith in you and your clinic to cast my chains off and give me freedom I do deserve as a wrongfully accused Man, son, brother, father, friend. Matthew Major DOC# 246179 Cause # : 53c02-1308-FA-000779 God Bless you. Please contact me with your decision so I know you made a life changing decision for me , just please at least write me so I know you care enough about your citizens to respond to cries for your help. You can speak openly with my mother Charlotte Spain (828) 476-0406: 71 Lakeview Dr. Canton, NC 28716 Thank You Matthew Major I know yall get thousands of request and inmates claiming innocence, and each person who are innocent deserve to have organizations like yours willing to fight for them and I give yall so much Thanks and I thank God everyday yall are out there caring enough to help free the innocents. Since discovering firsthand how easily lives and families can be destroyed by Poor Defense attorneys not doing their job . And Prosecutors allowed to do as they please in court

  5. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

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