« Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court decides one today, re sex offender registry | Main | Ind. Courts - Marion Superior Court Judicial Vacancy »

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Ind. Decisions - Attorney General will appeal Gingerich ruling to Indiana Supreme Court

Today was the last day for the State to appeal the Court of Appeals decision reversing the trial court in the case of Paul Henry Gingerich. Today the Attorney General filing a petition with the Supreme Court, asking the Court to reverse the COA ruling.

Here is a long list of earlier ILB entries. This Dec. 13, 2012 entry quotes from a Fort Wayne Journal Gazette editorial, including:

The Indiana Court of Appeals judges have determined something advocates for justice already knew: A Kosciusko County boy was deprived of due process rights when a judge rushed through a hearing that sent the 12-year-old to adult court on a murder charge. * * *

Gingerich – an 80-pound sixth-grader when he was accused of helping a friend kill the friend’s stepfather – pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder and was sentenced to 25 years in prison. The appeals court rightly sent the case back to juvenile court for another waiver hearing.

Typically, Indiana’s attorney general would appeal this week’s ruling to the state Supreme Court, particularly if a precedent were at stake. But case law is already clear, and Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s office said his office will study whether to appeal.

“Among the most disheartening cases seen in the criminal justice system are those involving young people charged with extremely violent crimes,” Zoeller said. “For prosecutors and judges, these are among the most difficult cases as well in terms of balancing the rights of the juvenile with the safety of the community. We will carefully review our options after consulting with the county prosecutor and conducting further research.”

Zoeller might appeal, but he could conclude that the ruling is so obviously the right one that justice would be best served by sending Gingerich back to juvenile court for a proper hearing.

Make no mistake, deciding how to treat a 12-year-old who helped kill someone is no easy matter. And regardless of age, the boy helped kill Philip Danner. But Indiana’s constitution emphasizes that the criminal justice system is based on reformation, not vindictive punishment, and that is especially true for a child. Kosciusko officials were wrong to simply send Gingerich to adult court without a true and thorough investigation into the boy’s competency and options for incarceration.

Now, he will finally receive the evaluation justice demands.

Here is the Attorney General's news release today:
Today Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller announced that his office will appeal the December 11 ruling of the Indiana Court of Appeals in the Paul Gingerich case to the Indiana Supreme Court. Gingerich is serving a 25-year-sentence after pleading guilty to an adult charge of conspiracy to commit murder. Today’s filing of a Petition to Transfer means that the state’s highest court will ultimately decide whether to uphold Gingerich’s guilty plea and sentence.

The Attorney General’s Office represents the prosecution in appellate court. Zoeller today issued this statement:

“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. 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.

Gingerich had pleaded guilty to an adult charge of conspiracy to commit murder in the 2010 shooting death of Philip Danner. The Indiana Court of Appeals on December 11 reversed the guilty plea and ordered the case sent back to the Kosciusko County courts; and today was the deadline for the Attorney General to appeal that ruling. The State’s Petition to Transfer means the Court of Appeals’ order will be stayed and Gingerich remains in Department of Correction custody pending a ruling by the Indiana Supreme Court.

Here is a copy of the State's 20-page petition to transfer.

What happens next? Gingerich's attorney will have an opportunity to file a response, then the Supreme Court will decide whether to grant transfer and consider the issue(s) itself, or allow the Court of Appeals ruling to stand.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 10, 2013 06:27 PM
Posted to Ind. App.Ct. Decisions