The Indiana Court of Appeals has reversed the conspiracy to commit murder conviction of Paul Gingerich, who was 12 when he and another boy shot and killed a man in Kosciusko County in April 2010. The case now goes back to the juvenile court.
Gingerich was sentenced to 25 years in prison after he signed an agreement to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit murder. Gingerich was originally charged with murder for the killing of Phillip Danner, who was his friend's stepfather.
The appeals court said that the juvenile court should not have denied a motion by Gingerich's attorney that asked for more time to prepare before a hearing at which the case against Gingerich was moved to adult court. The appeals court said Gingerich's attorney had only four business days to prepare for the hearing.
Gingerich's attorney, Monica Foster, argued during an Oct. 30, 2012, hearing before the appeals court that the local court rushed to judgment without considering Gingerich's maturity. Defense attorneys had complained that due process wasn't being followed and their requests for more time were repeatedly rejected, she said, even though a psychologist questioned whether Gingerich understood what was happening.
In its decision, the appeals court noted the appraisal by that psychologist, Stephen Ross, found many indications that Gingerich may not have been competent to plead guilty or stand trial in adult court, such as “Gingerich believed it was the judge's responsibility to find him guilty, he displayed an inability to articulate fully what his counsels' role was in the case, he did not understand why he should not speak with the prosecutor without his attorney, he displayed an inability to convey an understanding of the concept of plea bargaining, he did not understand many of the legal strategies his counsel proposed and he was unable to understand many of the words being used by his counsel.”