The Indiana Supreme Court will decide whether a 14-year-old Kosciusko County boy will get a second chance to avoid an adult murder conviction for helping kill a friend’s stepfather in 2010.
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller announced Thursday his office will appeal a Dec. 11 Indiana Court of Appeals ruling that tossed out Paul Gingerich’s conviction for conspiracy to commit murder.
The appeals court found a juvenile court judge violated Gingerich’s due process rights because his lawyers were not able to investigate whether Gingerich was competent. A mental health evaluation couldn’t be done for several weeks.
Gingerich is serving a 25-year sentence after pleading guilty to an adult charge of conspiracy to commit murder. The Indiana Department of Correction placed him in its Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility, citing his age and the department’s obligation to keep him safe.
The appeals court reversed the 2010 conviction, stating Gingerich should have been tried as a juvenile, not an adult.
Thursday was the deadline for the state to appeal the Dec. 11 ruling.
“My office is concerned about not setting a precedent that would allow violent offenders to back out of their plea agreements after pleading guilty,” Zoeller said in a prepared statement. “Mindful of the deceased victim in this tragic case, we respectfully request the Indiana Supreme Court consider this appeal and make the final determination.”
Gingerich – then 12 – along with then-15-year-old Colt Lundy each were charged with murder in the death of Philip Danner, Lundy’s stepfather. They shot him to death April 20, 2010, inside his Kosciusko County home. Both pleaded guilty.
Lundy was sentenced to a 25-year term and is in custody at the Wabash Valley Level 4 Facility with an earliest possible release date of April 27, 2022, according to the Indiana Department of Correction.
Gingerich’s lawyer, Monica Foster, argued in October that she believes she can prove he was incompetent back in 2010 to stand trial.
A doctor’s report from later that year said Gingerich displayed an inability to articulate fully what his attorneys’ 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 understand 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.
Zoeller’s decision means the appeals court’s ruling will be stayed and Gingerich will remain in custody of the Indiana Department of Correction pending the state Supreme Court’s ruling.
If, after another waiver hearing, Gingerich is retained in the juvenile court system, he could be held up to the age of 21. If he is waived to adult court again, prosecutors can file a murder charge against him carrying a possible 65 years in prison. And there is no guarantee he would receive a favorable plea agreement with prosecutors again.