The Indiana Court of Appeals reversal of an adult murder conspiracy conviction of a then-12-year-old should be reviewed by the state Supreme Court, Attorney General Greg Zoeller said in a statement late Thursday.
Paul Henry Gingerich, who will turn 15 next month, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 25 years as an adult for his role as the younger co-defendant in the 2010 shooting death of Phillip Danner in Kosciusko County. On Dec. 11, the Court of Appeals threw out the plea and sent the case back to the trial court.
The appeals panel held in Paul Henry Gingerich v. State of Indiana, 43A05-1101-CR-27, that the court abused its discretion in denying Gingerich a continuance of a waiver hearing for which his defenders had five days to prepare.
Zoeller’s statement said the petition to transfer “means that the state’s highest court will ultimately decide whether to uphold Gingerich’s guilty plea and sentence.”
There was no immediate indication whether the Indiana Supreme Court would grant transfer.
“Balancing the interests of justice when an offender is so young is extremely difficult. In working with prosecutors, my office is concerned about not setting a precedent that would allow violent offenders to back out of their plea agreements after pleading guilty,” Zoeller said in a statement.
“Mindful of the deceased victim in this tragic case, we respectfully request the Indiana Supreme Court consider this appeal and make the final determination,” Zoeller said.
In the petition to transfer, Zoeller argues “The Court of Appeals’ decision creates uncertainty about who may bring a direct appeal following a guilty plea, undermines the finality of pleas, and creates a disincentive to enter plea agreements, especially where juveniles are involved.”
Gingerich defense attorney Monica Foster argued to the Court of Appeals his case was replete with error beyond the denial of continuances. She said the trial court was misled on juvenile placement options for Gingerich 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.
Foster said she was surprised the AG’s office appealed.
“I really believe the Court of Appeals opinion was unquestionably correct and that no reasonable jurist could disagree with it,” Foster said. She said the appellate court cited longstanding precedent to reverse the trial court and accused the AG’s office of “trying to make this case into something it’s not.”
Read more about the Gingerich case in Indiana Lawyer.