« Notable example of how death debate impacts other sentencing reforms | Main | Another notable consequence of very long prison sentences »

February 26, 2012

"What life is like for 14-year-old killer tried as an adult"

The title of this post is the headline of this new lengthy article from the Indianapolis Star.  Here is how it begins:

Paul Henry Gingerich awoke on the morning of his 14th birthday to the sound of a voice -- his prison guard. "Happy birthday," she said.

It was 6 o'clock. Paul would just as soon been given a few more minutes to sleep. But in a place where he must ask permission to go to the bathroom, where he eats every meal under close surveillance and where birthdays aren't much different from any other day, it was a nice gesture for one of the state's most controversial inmates.

Paul Gingerich is believed to be the youngest person in Indiana ever sentenced to prison as an adult.  He was still 12 years old when he arrived here at the Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility, the state's maximum security prison for children.  He had such a small frame and such a baby face that one of his new teachers -- the prison has a school -- asked: "What is a 7-year-old doing in our facility?"

Yet Paul was also a killer.  He had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder after he and a friend fired four bullets into the friend's stepdad.  Each boy received 25 years, with the possibility that, for good behavior, they could get out in about half that time.  They would still be young men, but young men who had grown up in prison.

In Paul's case, that means living in a cell with a steel door and bare block walls in a remote corner of Pendleton.   Home consists of a mattress on a concrete slab, a small desk and a chair and a window spliced with thick bars. Paul's view is of a small patch of grass, a tall fence and rolling wave of razor sharp concertina wire.

Here, in this place, Paul has grown nearly 3 inches to about 5-foot-8, sprouted peach fuzz, popped his first pimples, had his voice change and -- now -- marked two birthdays.  It is also a place that -- should his lawyer pull off an epic reversal -- Paul hopes to soon leave.

February 26, 2012 at 11:58 AM | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451574769e2016763051c1d970b

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference "What life is like for 14-year-old killer tried as an adult":

Comments

So what. There is a collection of kids who killed others at age 6. "How come you held the the kid under water and drowned him?" "He shouldn't have touched my toy." "Oh, OK. I get it now." These kids do not even get tried. They get removed from the home by child welfare authorities.

Articles seeking sympathy for cold hearted killers, however young, leave me cold. The journalist should get a visit from the family of the victim. Beat his left wing, pro-criminal, anti-victim ass. There is no justice for murder victims, just lawyer rent seeking, a crime itself, cult criminals in charge of the three branches of our government.

Here is another disgusting outcome. The family of the victim has full justification to not only go after the murderer who got away with murder but after this pro-criminal, biased judge. Lawyers are great fiction writers. Unlocking a cabinet, loading a gun, removing a window screen, and sniper class aiming at a rapidly moving target is called "involuntary." It is as if he tripped, and the trigger was pulled by accident. Someone explain to me, except for their absolute powers, how lawyers can put such fictions into the public record, and expect any respect for the judicial process.

http://www.nytimes.com/1992/09/03/us/13-year-old-pleads-no-contest-in-killing-of-friend.html

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Feb 26, 2012 12:39:10 PM

This is actually a very interesting issue. Along with probably most readers here, I feel fairly acquainted with the legal tests for competency to stand trial for those who claim to be "incompetent" -- the insane and severally retarded, etc. But I've not thought about case law for making such determinations of competency for children. The issues are definitely quite linked, as they are elucidated in the death penalty opinions of Roper and Atkins for example.

So then, what is the test for children's competency? Is it any different from competency in general (sanity, etc)?

Posted by: Alex | Feb 26, 2012 1:30:05 PM

How old was this child when he committed his crime -- 11 or 12? Why does the State need to lie to itself by saying the child is an adult? What's next -- sentencing 9-year-olds to adult correctional institutions? Heck, will the State, in its wisdom, stick a 12-year-old in a cell withan adult pedophile or sexually violent predator?

Children are children.

Are the people who support sending pre-pubescent offenders to "adult" trials and prisons brain-dead, are they childless, and/or have they forgotten their own childhoods?

Posted by: Calif. Capital Defense Atty. | Feb 26, 2012 1:56:20 PM

CCDA: Why do your comments show no evidence of your attending law school? Is it part of your Plain English policy, or do you expect people to accept your ipse dixits because you are morally superior to others? What kind of an argument is, "Children are children," especially after they blasted a guy four times, and not with Nerf balls?

As to brain dead, childless, forgetful of own childhood, what about the dead victim?

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Feb 26, 2012 2:24:28 PM

Alex: Children pass Dusky legal competency criteria after their third birthday. You just have to translate down to their vocabulary level.

"...the test must be whether he has sufficient present ability to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding --
and whether he has a rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against him."

From here: http://www.unl.edu/ap-ls/student/CST%20assess.pdf

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Feb 26, 2012 2:30:31 PM

Supremacy Claus feel its his moral obligation to decide when a child is a child, and when he is not. Not old enough to have sex, but old enough to be treated like an adult in criminal court. Hypocrisy.

Are you a Sick Santorum support, Supremacy Claus?

Posted by: Huh? | Feb 26, 2012 2:32:02 PM

CCDA --

I have not forgotten my childhood, which at no point included putting together a plan with my buddies for killing a parent so we could run away, much less carrying through with it.

Children are impulsive, you bet. But not all the time. By the time you're 12 you know full well that it's both immoral and illegal to kill. Thinking about how to bring it off is not the stuff of childishness. It's the stuff of murderers. This guy is one.

In fact, he got off light. He went to jail at 12 and got a 25 year sentence, of which he'll actually serve half (roughly 13 years). So he'll be out at 25 -- an age where his lethal capacities will be vastly superior to what they were the first time around.

Fine. You wanna adopt him? Feel free. But buy your life insurance first.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 26, 2012 2:36:58 PM

CCCP,

Just think of it as a very long time out.

Huh?,

Do you know what Santorum's position on such a matter is or are you talking out of your backside?

If truth be told, NO candidate on either side has shown more concern for the plight of children than Santorum. After all, it was our Dear Leader who opposed a bill (even Hillary, Boxer, et al. supported the Federal version) that would have required doctors to give medical treatment to living babies outside of the womb.

Yet you want to pretend that it is you who cares about kids.

That's precious.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Feb 26, 2012 4:00:59 PM

Huh?: I am deciding nothing. Nature is running the show, no matter what sick, fictitious doctrine the lawyer is adopting to further its rent seeking aims. Nature says, adult at 14. I say, adult at 14, not 18. Nature says the 2 year old is shocked by the word, no. Gets over it at 3, and has good understanding of morality. Indeed, 3 year olds have accurately nominated peers, and they turned out to be criminals at age 23.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Feb 26, 2012 4:43:22 PM

I was a kid once and never killed anyone. Therefore, the state can do whatever it wants to kids. In fact for perfect crime control kill all kids under 14. Problem solved in a generation.

Posted by: Not So Swift | Feb 26, 2012 6:44:54 PM

Not So Swift --

"Therefore, the state can do whatever it wants to kids."

Would you mind quoting the commenter who took the position, "Therefore, the state can do whatever it wants to kids."

Somehow I think I'm going to be waiting a long time for that one.

What we have here is the typical, cheap liberal "argument" of constructing a total strawman ("...the state can do whatever it wants to kids"), thereby avoiding any discussion of whether the sentence actually imposed here -- effectively 13 years for a calculated and coordinated murder -- was insufficient.

Very impressive.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 26, 2012 7:12:11 PM

I know this to many is a sideline issue, but it was access to firearms that made this crime possible (and the intent of the killers of course). But without the guns, this crime probably wouldn't have occurred.

Posted by: justme | Feb 26, 2012 7:52:10 PM

@Huh?
It's a simple matter to know that murder is wrong, consenting to sex is more complicated. The same goes for voting, drinking, smoking etc.

Posted by: MikeinCT | Feb 26, 2012 7:53:43 PM

Huh?: As a Pennsylvanian, I told Santorum not to come back if he voted for Clinton's impeachment. He replied with a rambling 10 page letter on the defense of the constitution. That impeachment was a pretextual lawyer gotcha against Clinton for raising taxes on the rich. The rich got all their money back in the form of lower interest rates. However, that false use of the law to retaliate against a political opponent cost $70 million to investigate a deposition. Most importantly, it consumed a 1000 hours of Clinton's time, time required by Al Qaeda. That lawyer vermin, Santorum, was a factor in 9/11, totally covered up the lawyers on the 9/11 Commission. Lawyers caused multiple factors in 9/11. The biggest factor was the pussification of the American males on those planes. They should have torn those terrorists limb from limb. There should be a duty to kill all violent criminals on the spot. All the passengers should have been armed, as should all law abiding citizens. Anyone failing to try to kill a violent criminal on the spot should be fined $100. This self-help principle unifies all countries with low crime rates, as does their low ratio of lawyers to population. Rich, poor, in between, if a country has a low crime rate, citizens beat up or kill criminals on the spot. That principle also explains the difference between low and high crime rate counties in the US.

The voters of Pennsylvania threw him out for an unpalatable left wing extremist. Santorum is trash to Pennsylvania. The nation should be warned of his limited intellect and hypocrisy. Do not pick up our toxic trash, USA. I will vote for Obama before voting for Santorum. So, no, not a Santorum supporter. He is on the arrest list as part of the treasonous lawyer hierarchy. His lawyer stupidity cost this nation $7 trillion and 3000 lives in one day.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Feb 26, 2012 11:47:05 PM

The problem is that some of these juvie killers will kill again. Would the enlightened among us propose to take that risk with their kids?

Posted by: federalist | Feb 27, 2012 12:14:23 AM

The problem, as I see it, is that CCCP and his ilk are wonderful at telling us that we are wrong but never provide an adequate solution for the problem.

So, CCCP, what is your solution for handling a 14 year old murderer that treats him in a manner you see fit AND protects society's interests of safety and justice?

If not, you are nothing but an anklebiter.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Feb 27, 2012 9:58:09 AM

After reading the article, I believe this is a challenging case. I would like to read the psychiatric report that found him incompetent to stand trial. While I understand the advantage of the plea that was reached, I am disturbed it was done in four days. If I were the prosecutor, I may have offered such a plea based on the facts about the crime and the offender, but for my own peace of mind and in the interest of fairness, I would have allowed the defense to have him evaluated. I assume the initial evaluation was the State's expert. If not, I would have wanted my own expert to evaluate him.

The problem here as I see it is this. If this 12 year old was not competent to stand trial, did not really appreciate his conduct, and so on, then he has been over-sentenced. If he was competent, appreciate what he was doing, and poses a future danger then he has actually been substantially under-sentenced.

Again, based only on what I've read here, my base hope is that the decision-makers had more and better information. I don't think it's enough to either say "He killed a guy so that's that," or "He's 12 so let him out."

Posted by: Robert Barnhart | Feb 27, 2012 10:19:43 AM

Here is a link to Gingerich's appellate brief. http://www.justice4juveniles.com/paulgingerichfiles/pdfs/gingerichbrief122011.pdf

The State still has time to file its brief because the Motion to Dismiss due to appellate waiver was denied on Feb 17, 2012.

Posted by: Robert Barnhart | Feb 27, 2012 10:46:08 AM

robert, I assume in your first sentence you meant "competent to stand trial" rather than incompetent. Interestingly, it was a different Indiana case, Indiana v. Edwards where Justice Scalia strongly hinted that Indiana's standards for competency to stand trial are likely much too low to satisfy due process. Scalia was alone in the opinion and raising that concern however.

The problem is that too often the rush to punish child as adults the issues of competency and criminal responsibility has been ignored. Because the standards for competency to stand trial are so low in many states, it is likely that many children tried as adults are making pleas with consequences they barely understand without ever getting a full psychological evaluation.

Erika :)

Posted by: virginia | Feb 27, 2012 11:24:24 AM

this is so true erika!

" it is likely that many children tried as adults are making pleas with consequences they barely understand without ever getting a full psychological"

Unfortunatley they are NOT ALONE. i'm sure it also applies to 80% of EVERYONE else hauled into a court thesedays!

Posted by: rodsmith | Feb 27, 2012 4:02:56 PM

MikeinCT: "It's a simple matter to know that murder is wrong, consenting to sex is more complicated. The same goes for voting, drinking, smoking etc.'

Actually, its not that simple. A 12-year-old does not have the same mentality as a 32-year-old. If in the same situation, would a 32-year-old be tried as a juvenile because he acted like a 12-year-old?

When I was 12 my friend and me would jump off the roof of his garage onto a mattress, that was until he broke his arm - something neither of us considered before climbing on top of the garage. Had either of us stopped to consider that one or both of us could break a bone, we may not have jumped.

Jumping off the roof of a garage is obviously not the same a pulling the trigger of a gun, but that does not change the fact that a child does not always consider the result of his actions.

Posted by: Huh? | Feb 29, 2012 3:29:36 PM

Rodsmith:

Funny supposition.
""making pleas with consequences they barely understand"" "i'm sure it also applies to 80% of EVERYONE else hauled into a court thesedays!"

--+ As custodian of the inmate law library at a county penitentiary, I have serviced nearly 10,000 inmates, about 50% (fully) sentenced locals, 30% federal, & 20% parole violators in my career. [Due to repeat offenders, not as many different individuals]

--+ Three questions I regularly ask: Did you commit that for which you were convicted or are charged? Did you plead or were you found guilty at trial? If so, did you understand the consequences of your pleading/deal making? I have not recorded the stats, out of the thousands, I have had precious few claim that they did not understand the consequences.

Funny that I don't encounter your 80%. Maybe your 80% don't use correctional law libraries once they leave court?

NB: : :Before any guilty plea in any American court--with juveniles and adults--there is a plea colloquy. *No judge* wants to have a defendant successfully withdraw his plea based on his claim that he did not understand the consequences.

The court herself, no the *very system*, has every incentive to avoid starting trial proceedings over from scratch, which would necessarily ensue were such a claim to prevail.

Posted by: Adamakis | Feb 29, 2012 11:11:55 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB