Mt. Vernon Register-News

CNHI Special Projects

June 14, 2013

Prison sentence of 12-year-old prompts new juvenile sentencing law

INDIANAPOLIS — Three years ago, when 12-year-old Paul Henry Gingerich became the youngest person in Indiana ever sent to prison as an adult, his story gained international attention and sparked questions about whether children belong behind bars with grown-up offenders.

Gingerich, convicted of conspiring to murder a friend’s stepfather, remains in prison, awaiting a critical court hearing. But his case has already had a profound impact on how juveniles tried as adults may be punished.

In late April, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed into law a provision that gives judges new sentencing options for children under 18 in the state’s criminal courts. It goes into effect July 1.

Among other things, it gives judges more discretion to keep those young offenders out of the adult prison system and to put them instead into juvenile detention facilities where they can be rehabilitated while serving their sentence.

Advocates for the new law included state prison officials who feared for Paul Gingerich’s safety when he was first sent to them in 2010 as an 80-pound, sixth-grader who’d never been in trouble.

“No good comes from putting a 12-year-old in an adult prison,” said Mike Dempsey, head of youth services for the Indiana Department of Correction.

In Indiana, children as young as 10 can tried as adults. Gingerich was 12 when he was arrested in the shooting death of 49-year-old Phillip Danner of Cromwell, along with Danner’s 15-year-old stepson. The defense argued Gingerich had been bullied into the crime by the older teen.

A psychiatrist who evaluated Gingerich said the boy wasn’t competent to stand trial as an adult. But a juvenile court judge rejected that opinion and declared both boys were fit to stand trial as adults. An appeals court has since thrown out that ruling.

For years, judges in Indiana have had few options for dealing with juveniles who’ve committed heinous crimes. They could keep them in the juvenile court system and order them locked up until they turn 18. Or they could send them into the criminal courts, where the juvenile would be tried and sentenced as an adult.

Text Only
CNHI Special Projects
  • The Simpsons still going strong

    The groundbreaking animation first hit the air Dec. 17, 1989, but the family first appeared on television in "The Tracey Ullman Show" short "Good Night" on April 19, 1987.

    August 21, 2014

  • Police chief resigns over racial slur repost to Facebook

    A repost on his personal Facebook page of a racially-charged comment by the original poster of a comedy video has forced the police chief of an Oklahoma city to resign his office.

    August 21, 2014

  • Does Twitter need a censor?

    Twitter decided last year to make images more prominent on its site. Now, the social network is finding itself caught between being an open forum and patrolling for inappropriate content.

    August 21, 2014

  • sleepchart.jpg America’s sleep-deprived cities

    Americans might run on sleep, but those living in the country's largest cities don't appear to run on much.

    August 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Africa goes medieval in its fight against Ebola

    As the Ebola epidemic claims new victims at an ever-increasing rate, African governments in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia have instituted a "cordon sanitaire," deploying troops to forcibly isolate the inhabitants in an area containing most of the cases.

    August 18, 2014

  • Democrat? Republican? There's an app for that

    If you're a Republican, you might want to think twice before buying Lipton Iced Tea, and forget about Starbucks coffee. If you're a Democrat, put down that Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, and throw away the cylinder of Quaker Oats in your pantry.

    August 18, 2014

  • Five myths about presidential vacations

    In the nuclear age, presidents may have only minutes to make a decision that could affect the entire world. They don't so much leave the White House as they take a miniature version of it with them wherever they go.

    August 15, 2014

  • weightloss.jpg The scales of injustice: Weight loss differs between men, women

    You're not imagining it: There really are differences between the way men and women diet, lose weight and respond to exercise.

    August 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • Drug dealers going corporate

    A top federal official on Tuesday said that 105 banks and credit unions are doing business with legal marijuana sellers, suggesting that federal rules giving financial institutions the go-ahead to provide services to dealers are starting to work.

    August 13, 2014

  • wwimemorial.jpg The benefit of World War I omission on the Washington Mall

    By 1982, when the Vietnam Veterans Memorial opened on the National Mall, something had shifted in the way we remember our wars. A national memorial, prominently placed on the nation's most symbolically significant public space, came to seem like an essential dignity offered to veterans, their families and the memory of those who gave their lives. But there is an exception.

    August 11, 2014 1 Photo

Twitter Updates
Facebook
Stocks