Jeana's World of Law

Jeana's World of Law

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Should a 12-year-old Stand in Adult Court?

In 2010 Paul Henry Gingerich, then a 12-year-old boy, was sentence in adult court for 25 years charged with murder conspiracy. His lawyer is asking the Indiana court of appeals to re-examine the case that sent the young boy to adult prison, and judges will make their decision soon.

Gingerich, along with two other boys, shot and killed the step-father of one of the other boys in a attempted plan to run away to Arizona.

Although he was sentence to 25 years in adult court, the Indiana Department of Corrections believed that a young boy would not fair well in an adult prison, so rather he was sentenced to a juvenile facility until he was of age to be transferred to an adult court. With good behavior, however, Gingerich could be released when he is 24, meaning he would have spent 12 years in jail.

Gingerich's lawyer is claiming that he was too young to be deemed competent to stand trial in adult court and is asking for a legal "do-over" - for the case to be sent back to juvenile court and start over from there. His lawyer is also claiming that his then lawyers were not given adequate time to prepare for the hearing that decided whether the case would be in juvenile courts or adult court - they only had four days. Usually, trials that consider moving someone to adult court are given three months to prepare. Gingerich pleaded guilty to the conspiracy to commit murder, but his lawyer is asking to nullify the guilty please.

The State of Indiana, however, is saying that Gingerich, as part of a plea deal to reduce the charge from murder to conspiracy, waived his right to appeal. Both his parents and lawyers signed the plea agreement. The state also claims that the boy pre-medidated the murder and was well aware of what we was doimg,.

According to the Juvenile Law Center, a non-profit organization that advocates for the rights of children in juvenile justice, as many as one-third of children under the age of 13 are not competeent enough to fully understand what is going on in court or aid in their own defense, and only they can sign away their rights. The MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Adolescent Development and Juvenile Justice conducted research that found that teenagers behavior and capacities can significantly change over the course of adolescence.

Although a first for Indiana, children being charged in adult court is no new thing. In addition, currently ten states within the US do not have a minimum age for sentencing children to life without parole.

The decision has not been released yet, but whatever the decision it could set a precedent for Indiana putting young boys on trial as adult men. However, even if the judges allow Gingerich a court "do-over", there is no guarantee that the next judge won't agree that he should be tried as an adult.

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