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Judges focus on juvenile due process in Gingerich murder conspiracy appeal

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Court of Appeals judges on Tuesday focused their questions on whether a 12-year-old waived to adult court in a 2010 murder had due process when his attorneys had just five days to prepare for a waiver hearing in juvenile court in Kosciusko County.

A panel heard oral arguments in Paul Gingerich v. State of Indiana, 43A05-1101-CR-27, in which Paul Gingerich pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder and was sentenced to serve 25 years in prison as an adult. He is believed to be the youngest person in Indiana sentenced as an adult. A 15-year-old co-defendant, Colt Lundy, received the same sentence in the killing of Lundy’s stepfather, Phillip Danner, in Lundy’s home in Cromwell. Lundy has not appealed his conviction.

Presiding Judge John Baker and judges Elaine Brown and James Kirsch grilled deputy attorney general Angela Sanchez about the period of time that Gingerich’s defenders were allowed to prepare for a waiver hearing from juvenile court and the court’s denial of requests for continuances.

“Are you confident this is what other trial judges should be doing?” Kirsch asked Sanchez. She replied that the waiver process in question might not represent “best practices,” but that Gingerich’s attorneys still would bear the burden of proving that even if the judge erred, that Gingerich was prejudiced by the mistake.

Sanchez urged the court to rely on the plea that Gingerich entered with the consent of his parents and his own acknowledgement in writing that he was competent to stand trial. But Baker said that happened in adult court, and he repeatedly steered Sanchez to address what happened in juvenile court, asking if she would defend the waiver. “I’m suggesting to you, you need to do that,” he said.

“If you’re not supposed to be in the room, what happens in that room isn’t legitimate,” he later said.

Kirsch noted the Indiana Supreme Court has held that the determination of waiver from juvenile court requires an investigation that “shall not be a perfunctory proceeding.” Brown noted that Marion County typically grants 90 days for juvenile investigations when waiver to adult court is requested. “Why the rush to justice?” she asked at one point.

Sanchez said the juvenile judge was under no statutory obligation to mandate a competency investigation solely based on Gingerich’s age.

“We don’t know if he was incompetent,” Sanchez said of Gingerich. “There’s no error in failing to order” a competency investigation, she later said.

The judges also said they were troubled by evidence presented in the juvenile hearing by a probation officer who said he knew of no secure juvenile facility that could accept a 12-year-old convicted in a homicide, despite numerous placement options. At the discretion of the Department of Correction, Gingerich currently is housed in the Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility.

Gingerich defense attorney Monica Foster said the trial court was misled on that and other facts and never had evidence of Gingerich’s incompetence to stand trial made available before the waiver hearing. She said his parents likely signed a plea in a legal landscape where they saw no due process, reciting a record replete with denials of requests for continuances and motions to reconsider.

The judges also challenged Foster, who indicated that Gingerich’s slight size should have given the juvenile judge pause to further consider competency.

“With all due respect, height does not prove incompetency,” Baker said. Foster replied that a report was done after the waiver hearing that would have proven incompetency and additional evidence would have been presented if defenders had been allowed to prepare a case.

“I’ve never seen an AG’s office so wed to waiver,” Foster said.

Baker counseled Foster that if Gingerich, now 14, prevailed and the case were remanded for new juvenile proceedings, he again could be waived to adult court, where the original murder charge could be refiled. It carries a potential 65-year prison sentence.

“There’s a chance you might win this battle but lose this war,” Baker said.

“I know that I risk that,” Foster said. But she said she also knew “what the evidence would look like at a fair juvenile hearing.”

After Tuesday’s argument, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller issued a statement defending Gingerich’s conviction and sentence and asking the court to affirm them.

“The state’s position is that the plea agreement entered by the defendant with the vigorous assistance of two attorneys and his parents should not be disturbed. The trial court and county prosecutor followed Indiana law, and the defendant’s rights were not violated,” Zoeller said.

Read more about the Gingerich case in the Oct. 26 issue of Indiana Lawyer.



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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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