INDIANAPOLIS — A northern Indiana boy convicted in adult court at age 12 in the killing of a friend's stepfather will get a second chance to be tried in juvenile court after the state's top court refused to hear his case.
A Kosciusko County court sentenced Paul Henry Gingerich in 2010 to 25 years in prison, saying he and two other boys conspired to fatally shoot 49-year-old Phillip Danner in a plot to run away to Arizona.
In December, the Indiana Court of Appeals threw out Gingerich's guilty plea and sentence, saying a juvenile court judge rushed when he waived the case to adult court. The appellate court ordered a new hearing to determine if Gingerich should be retried in a juvenile court.
The Indiana attorney general's office appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that Gingerich had signed a plea agreement and waived his right to appeal his conviction. On Thursday, the state Supreme Court upheld the appellate court's decision.
Neither Gingerich's attorney, Monica Foster, nor the Indiana attorney general's office spokesman immediately returned messages seeking comment Friday morning.
Foster said in a previous court brief that Gingerich's guilty plea was invalid because the case should never have been heard in an adult court, that Gingerich hadn't understood the proceedings and that he had believed the judge was obligated to find him guilty.
Foster said in a brief that the lower court had not allowed Gingerich's attorneys sufficient time to prepare or conduct a proper investigation into his competency for an adult trial, and accepted a probation officer's erroneous testimony concerning the availability of facilities other than prisons for youths convicted of violent crimes.
Gingerich, who is now 15, was one of three juveniles charged with conspiracy to commit murder in the April 2010 shooting at Danner's home near Lake Wawasee, about midway between Fort Wayne and South Bend. Police said Gingerich and a 15-year-old co-defendant shot and killed Danner and that another 12-year-old boy served as a lookout.
The 15-year-old pleaded guilty as an adult and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. The other boy was sentenced to juvenile detention until age 18.