This story is just plain weird. Why would a child do this? What a waste of a life. Sigh
Tried in an adult court, Paul is not due to be released until he reaches 37
PAUL Henry Gingerich sits on his bed leafing through his homework. Like most kids his age he’d rather be hanging out at the mall with his mates or playing baseball.
But Paul is not like other kids his age. His bedroom bears little resemblance to that of an ordinary 15-year-old.
There are no posters of his favourite bands on the walls. His bed is little more than a thin mattress on a concrete block, and his desk is fixed to the floor in front of a narrow rectangle which provides his only source of natural light.
The view, obscured by metal bars, looks out over the grounds of a juvenile prison in Indiana in the US.
With his big grey eyes and shy smile, it’s hard to believe that Paul is serving a 25-year sentence for conspiracy to commit murder.
In the family album, his angelic face smiles out of photos while playing with pets, larking about with his older sisters Rowen and Carolynn and being cuddled by his doting parents.
But in 2010, Paul was jailed for his part in the shooting of his friend’s stepfather. Originally charged with murder, he later agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit murder.
He was just 12 years old.
Despite his age, he was tried and sentenced in an adult court. As a result Paul, now 15, is due to be incarcerated until the age of 37 and will be put on probation until he is 42.
His story shocked America…
His teachers described him as looking like Justin Bieber’s cute younger brother, but the schoolboy became a convicted killer after he and his friend Colt Lundy, then 15, shot and killed Phil Danner, 49. Colt was later sentenced to 30 years, also for conspiracy to commit murder.
On April 21, 2010, Paul left his home in the idyllic-sounding town of Enchanted Hills, Indiana, to meet Colt and their friend Chase Williams, also 12 at the time, in the park near his house.
The three boys had been planning to run away together but Colt told them his stepfather would never allow it so he needed help to kill him.
Chase – who was later to serve six months in juvenile detention for assisting a criminal – refused to go into Phil Danner’s house, but Paul found himself making the disastrous decision that was to change his life for ever.
His mum Nicole says: “We heard he went through a window and
that Colt Lundy had given him a loaded gun.” The pair then crept into the living room where they sat in armchairs waiting for Phil Danner to enter the room.
In his original confession to police, Paul said he had been hesitant. “We were talking about it and he (Colt) said that he wasn’t sure so I was like, I agreed with him,” he said.
But the wheels were already in motion and Paul, swept along with the diabolical plan, didn’t have a chance to change his mind. He confessed: “Phil turned the corner and then he (Colt) shot him. I freaked out and closed my eyes and turned around and shot.”
Understandably his parents found it extremely difficult to come to terms with what their son had done.
Nicole says: “This happened to my child whom I could never imagine being involved with something like this.
“I mean, the worst trouble Paul Henry’s been in is talking in class and maybe not getting assignments done occasionally. He came from a good home, a good family who loved him. I did not think for a second that my son was involved with the shooting.”
His dad Paul Senior adds: “I was watching when he told the truth. We got an attorney immediately, but, you know, at that point what are you gonna do? You want to say, ‘Can’t we just go back a day? Start over? Huh?’ But you can’t.”
Under Indiana law, children as young as 10 can be tried as adults in extreme circumstances. But Paul remains one of the youngest people in American history to have his case handled in this way.
He is due to spend the next three years in a juvenile unit before being transferred to an adult prison at the age of 18.
Meanwhile his family have won an appeal for a new hearing to determine whether he should be retried in a juvenile court. If such a trial is given the go-ahead, any sentence he is given will be served fully in a juvenile facility.
But at the new hearing there is a risk it could be decided that Paul should be retried as an adult instead, this time charged with murder, which could result in the full 65-year adult sentence.
In a harrowing documentary, filmmaker Zara Hayes gained unprecedented access to Paul and his family. For the first time his parents are able to take their campaign to an international audience.
“I’m in disbelief with the whole thing,” says Nicole. “Surely if you had an adult male or female who had the brain capacity of a 12-year-old, they would not be tried as an adult.”
Paul’s attorney Monica Foster agrees. “The idea of treating a 12-year-old boy as an adult just seemed so outside the norm and so anathema to any civilised system of justice that I was immediately interested in the case and in helping this young man.”
Paul attends school five days a week at Pendleton Juvenile Correction Facility, and hopes that by working hard and getting good grades he will stand a better chance of a normal life when he is finally released. It is not a view shared by many of his fellow inmates.
“Most of these kids don’t even try in school and they just kinda shrug it off,” Paul says. “I know it’s gonna be harder for my life if I don’t get my diploma.”
According to his teachers, he is one of the most well-behaved kids in Pendleton and is a role model for his peers.
But as things stand, in three years time he is due to be transferred to an adult prison and, according to Monica, all the hard work will have been in vain.
She says: “You really can’t appreciate just how horrific the adult prison system is unless you’ve been there. For the
last 30 years I’ve been in and out of the adult prison system in the State of Indiana and I wouldn’t let my dog go there for a week, much less a 12-year-
Paul Senior and Nicole have no desire to downplay the seriousness of what their son did but they believe it would be in both Paul’s interests and in the interests of society to keep him out of an adult jail.
“I never wanted him to get off scot free,” says Paul Senior. “He did commit a crime and I don’t want people to see him as a victim because Phil Danner was the victim in this case.
“But you can’t throw a child in with adults and expect him not to get
Referring to his police mugshot, Monica says she can’t believe anyone would consider Paul a lost cause.
“You just look at this kid and you go, ‘Really, seriously? That kid, that kid in that picture has to be waived? There’s no hope for that child? We can’t reform that child in the juvenile justice system?’
“We keep focused on the fact that at the end of the day we’re dealing with a child
and it’s in the best interest
of society to make him productive.”
Incredibly, Paul’s own outlook remains positive. He even describes himself as grateful for his lot in life. “I believe that I have matured faster than other kids my age,” he says.
“I’m starting to think before I act more and not be so impulsive. Now I’m more grateful for what I have.”
There’s no doubt that with his dark crew cut and prisoner’s garb, he is a far cry from the child who was led there in handcuffs three years ago.
The worst case scenario is that he will spend most of his life in jail, only being released at the age of 77.
Remarkably, when he talks about his life in prison it is not without hope.
“I don’t think about the days,” he says. “I just go day by day. I go by each meal.”
Despite his crime, despite his conviction, it’s clear that the childish charm which made his case so hard to stomach is not far beneath the surface.
Story culled from http://www.mirror.co.uk