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Monday, December 02, 2013

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

"12-Year-Old in Indiana Gets 25-Year Sentence", from Jan. 5, 2011, is the first of many posts that the ILB has had on the case of Paul Henry Gingerich.

Today a plea deal was announced.

Robert King, who has been covering the case for the Indianapolis Star, has this long, clear and detailed story for tomorrow's paper. It begins:

WARSAW, Ind – . Nearly three years after he became perhaps the youngest Hoosier ever sentenced to prison as an adult, Paul Henry Gingerich – given a second chance in the courts – has agreed to a plea deal that could set him free when he turns 18.

At age 12, Gingerich was sentenced as an adult to a 25-year prison term for a 2010 murder conspiracy in the shooting death of a friend’s stepfather. Even with credits for good behavior, that could have kept him in locked up until his mid-20s, with the final years likely spent in an adult prison.

The deal struck Monday by his attorney and the Kosciusko County prosecutor could see Gingerich, now 15, released on probation as early as 18 — so long as he continues to behave well in prison. Just as important to his family, the deal likely means Gingerich will never go to an adult prison, where the prisoners are older and their range of crimes more severe.

“He has the keys to his own jail cell,” said Gingerich’s attorney, Monica Foster.

The deal announced in a Kosciusko County courtroom comes after Gingerich won an appeal for a retrial, but it is also being guided by what some refer to as “Paul’s Law,” a new state law that took effect in July, granting the courts greater flexibility in blending aspects of juvenile and adult sentences. It also grants judges the leeway to revisit a juvenile’s case after sentencing — even to modify the terms for children showing progress toward rehabilitation.

The law was a legislative response to the outcry from child advocates and juvenile justice groups after Gingerich’s initial sentencing. Only a handful of cases have been affected by it so far. Gingerich’s is among the first to involve a plea deal.

“This is a fair sentence,” Foster said. “It makes Paul prove that he is worthy to be with us in society and it gives the judge some assurance that he’s not going to be a problem.”

Kosciusko County Prosecutor Daniel Hampton said the law “applies very well in this case” and allows flexibility that a previous judge in the case didn’t have nearly three years ago.

The deal isn’t a get-out-of-jail-free card. Much of Gingerich’s hope rests on his ability to continue showing progress in school and through rehabilitation programs. When Gingerich turns 18, a judge will decide where he goes from there, with options ranging from a maximum security adult prison to freedom on probation.

That Gingerich and his friend, Colt Lundy, were responsible for the death of 49-year-old Phil Danner is not in doubt.

The 2013 legislation referenced is HEA 1108. See this May 1st post from the Indiana Juvenile Justice Blog for details.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on December 2, 2013 08:25 PM
Posted to Ind. Trial Ct. Decisions