Attorneys for an Indiana boy sentenced to 25 years in prison for an offense at age 12 argued in the Indiana Court of Appeals this week that his case should have stayed in juvenile court.
Paul Henry Gingerich was just 12 years old when he was charged with helping a friend kill another boy’s stepfather in northeastern Indiana as part of a plan to run away to Arizona.
Paul was sentenced to 25 years in prison after signing an agreement to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit murder. A 15-year-old co-defendant pleaded guilty as an adult to conspiracy to commit murder and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. The other 12-year-old, who was present but didn’t enter the house, was sentenced to juvenile detention until age 18.
Paul’s attorney is appealing the decision to try him in adult court, because prosecutors and the judge failed to consider whether the sixth-grader was mature enough to be tried as an adult. Court documents say the only psychologist to evaluate him raised doubts about Paul’s ability to understand the legal process. He is asking the Indiana Court of Appeals to send his case back to juvenile court.
EJI believes that children under 14 should never be prosecuted as adults. Young children are developmentally incapable of exercising the judgment, maturity, and knowledge necesssary to competently defend themselves against criminal prosecution in adult court. The U.S. Supreme Court has developed clear guidelines for insuring that adults are competent to stand trial, but courts have not developed rules that address the unique characteristics of children, leaving child defendants like Paul Gingerich vulnerable and at great risk in adult court.