On February 3, 2014, the long and winding path of Paul Henry Gingerich’s criminal case came to an end, almost, with at least one review hearing yet to come. (See the last paragraph below for a summary.). Now is a time to look back and reflect on some lessons learned.
First, does Indiana want to continue to be a state that sends children as young as ten years old to criminal court with the long-term consequences of a felony conviction following the child for the rest of his or her life? Most of the waiver statutes require that the child be either fourteen years old or sixteen years old before the juvenile court may consider moving the child to criminal court jurisdiction. See IC 31-30-3. The statute that allows a child’s case to be filed in criminal court without the juvenile court ever having jurisdiction — often called “direct file” cases — requires that the child be at least sixteen years of age. IC 31-30-1-4. The exception is a child accused of murder if committed by an adult, in which case the child has to be at least ten years old when the act was allegedly committed. IC 31-30-3-4. Given the expanding body of case law and child development research, some would argue that a ten year old should never face criminal court consequences. See Roper v. Simmons, Graham v. Florida, Miller v. Alabama, and J.D.B. v. North Carolina. Thus, the Indiana legislature should consider raising the age limit specified in IC 31-30-1-4 to at least fourteen years of age.
Second, the appellate opinion that reversed Paul’s conviction illustrated the geographic disparity in the handling of juvenile court cases. In Marion County, the defense team would be routinely given at least three months to have psychological evaluations performed and to investigate the case and the child’s history and specific issues. In Paul’s case, the defense team was given nine days from the date of the alleged act to the beginning of the waiver hearing. Certainly, as a result of the appellate opinion, juvenile courts will likely be more sensitive to the need to prepare an adequate defense and to ensure that the child is competent to stand trial. However, part of the bigger picture is to ensure that all children across Indiana have access to the same types of resources, whether it is access to experts, diagnostic evaluations, investigators, or other trial preparation needs.
Finally, Paul’s case continues the ongoing discussion of juvenile law as a speciality and the need to continue to develop the specialization within the bar, which is supported by the National Juvenile Defender Center Juvenile Defense Standards (2013), Guiding Principle 2 and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, Juvenile Delinquency Guidelines: Improving Court Practice in Juvenile Delinquency Cases (2005), Chapters I(C)(7) and I(D). Some have spoken of developing a centralized juvenile defender system at the state level. Others have suggested adding juvenile law to the list of legal specialities, such as the family law certification. No matter what the path, the defense community must continue to develop through education and training to ensure that all children have competent, expert counsel.
Paul’s case began in 2010 with a waiver hearing in juvenile court, followed by a criminal conviction, and a a successful appeal sent the case back to juvenile court for another attempt at the waiver hearing, but that hearing never happened. Rather, after much negotiating and investigation, Paul’s case was resolved with the application of a law that sprung to life because of Paul’s own case (IC 31-30-4). Paul was again convicted of conspiracy to commit murder as a Class A felony. He will continue to be housed by the Indiana Department of Correction, Division of Youth Services, as long as his behavior remains good. Between Paul’s eighteenth and nineteenth birthday, the sentencing court will hold a review hearing to consider a possible release or modification of the sentence taking into consideration how well Paul has matured and been rehabilitated. Much of Paul’s future is in his own hands. See this article for an overview of the case and resolution.