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Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Ind. Decisions - More on "Paul Gingerich gains chance for freedom after boyhood in prison"

An editorial today in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, titled "Justice – delayed: 12-year-old’s adult sentencing leads to new law," concludes:

Late last year, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled that there had been, in effect, a rush to judgment. It threw out Gingerich’s guilty plea and the legal process started all over again.

Meanwhile, the Indiana Legislature passed a law aimed directly at the problem presented by Gingerich’s case. The measure allows adult courts to pronounce a “blended sentence” on a youthful offender like Gingerich whose crimes may be beyond the scope of juvenile court.

Monday, Gingerich agreed to have his case waived to adult court and again pleaded guilty. This time, although Gingerich will still face court supervision for 25 years, the court will have the option of keeping Gingerich in Pendleton and allowing him to pursue his education. He will be re-evaluated periodically and might end up in a group home, in community corrections, or even on probation if his behavior and rehabilitation continue apace.

“His case sparked the writing of the law,” the author of the new law, Wendy McNamara, R-Evansville, said. “If you’re going to place someone in a prison, eventually you’re going to have to let them out.” McNamara, director of the Early College High School in Evansville, says it’s clear that young offenders placed alongside adult prisoners will become hardened criminals by the time they’re released.

Now, judges have options to ensure that young defendants get counseling, treatment and educational opportunities, while the need to deliver sentences and give victims and their families a sense of justice can be met as well.

The bill took two years to get through the legislature, McNamara said, after a lot of advocacy on both sides. “It’s a huge change in the criminal justice system.”

A senseless, horrific crime initially brought a hasty and ill-considered judicial response. Now, all sides seem to agree that justice has been done. Score one for the Indiana Legislature and child advocates like Rep. McNamara.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on December 4, 2013 06:43 PM
Posted to Ind. Trial Ct. Decisions