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Paul Henry Gingerich plays cards recently at the Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility. The 14-year-old’s lawyers want his conviction overturned.

Teen’s appeal of adult trial set to proceed

Gingerich

Attorneys for an imprisoned Kosciusko County teenager may proceed with their attempt to get the boy’s sentence and conviction overturned after the state’s effort to dismiss the challenge was rejected.

Paul Henry Gingerich, 14, was charged as an adult in the 2010 death of a Kosciusko County man.

Attorneys for the boy filed the appeal last fall, asking the higher court to overturn an April 2010 decision by Kosciusko Superior Court Judge Duane Huffer to waive Gingerich into adult court to face a charge of murder.

The then-12-year-old Gingerich, along with then-15-year-old Colt Lundy, were each charged with murder in the death of Philip Danner, Lundy’s stepfather. They shot him to death April 20, 2010, inside his Kosciusko County home. They both pleaded guilty to charges of aiding in a murder.

The decision on whether to waive Gingerich into adult court came just days after he obtained a lawyer. Huffer denied a request by Gingerich’s attorney at the time to delay the hearing to allow mental health experts to evaluate Gingerich to see whether he was competent to assist in his own defense.

Gingerich’s appellate attorney, Monica Foster, argues that her client was not competent at the time because of his young age.

Foster argues that Huffer’s decision to waive Gingerich into adult court was invalid because the court did not properly evaluate Gingerich’s developmental state, ignored requirements for handling juvenile cases and violated his right to due process by pushing the hearing through so quickly, according to court documents.

Huffer abused his discretion in waiving Gingerich to adult court, Foster argued.

And while Gingerich eventually pleaded guilty to a charge of aiding in a murder and waived his right to appeal the case, Foster argues that because he never should have been waived to adult court in the first place, the guilty plea and waiver are void and unconscionable.

“The adult court never acquired (jurisdiction) because of the due process violations occurring in the juvenile court as a result of the entire waiver process,” Foster argued. “ … Paul was not competent at the time of his waiver hearing or when he entered the guilty plea. A guilty plea tendered by an incompetent defendant is not knowing, voluntary, or intelligent.”

The Indiana Attorney General’s Office asked the court to dismiss Gingerich’s appeal, saying he should be held to the terms of the plea agreement and his waiver of his right to appeal.

But earlier this month, the court denied the state’s request, allowing the appeal to continue.

Another 12-year-old connected to the case was sent to a state juvenile detention center after he admitted his role in the plan to kill Danner; he was released after completion of the program.

According to court documents, Lundy, Gingerich and other young boys hatched a plan to run away to the Southwest and sell T-shirts. Lundy said he had to kill his stepfather before he could leave.

Lundy summoned two of the boys to his home. Ultimately it was Gingerich who joined Lundy, and the two waited for Danner to come home, each armed with a gun, court documents said.

When Danner entered the living room, they shot him four times, though court documents said Gingerich had his eyes shut when he fired the gun and that both the fatal shots came from Lundy.

Later that evening, the other boy and Gingerich left with Lundy, fleeing the state in Danner’s car.

They were picked up more than 200 miles away in Illinois, after a Walmart clerk, suspicious of an early-morning attempt to exchange coins, called police.

In early 2011, Kosciusko Circuit Judge Rex Reed accepted Gingerich’s plea and sentenced the boy to 25 years in prison. He denied a request by Gingerich’s then-lawyers to have him placed in a juvenile facility, instead ordering him to serve his time in the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility’s “Youths Incarcerated as Adults” wing.

But the Indiana Department of Correction sidestepped Reed’s order and instead placed the diminutive 12-year-old in its Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility, citing his age and the department’s obligation to keep him safe.

The appellate court’s ruling accepting Gingerich’s appeal came on the teen’s 14th birthday.

rgreen@jg.net

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