Posts Tagged ‘Judge Duane Huffer

06
Feb
11

blind justice

This will be a busy week for me.

In recent days it has become clear that the police investigation surrounding the April 20th death of Phillip Danner missed the real story by a mile. The police only turned up a few fragments of truth; whatever they needed to glue these fragments together into a larger picture they either guessed at, fabricated, or misrepresented. As a result, all the proceedings of the Kosciusko County courts—the April 30th waiver hearing and the sentencing hearings in September (for 15-year-old Colt Lundy) and January (for 12-year-old Paul Henry Gingerich)—were predicated on an absence of information and outright falsehoods.

Thanks to information provided to us by the Guardians, Paul Henry is temporarily safe at the Pendleton youth prison; however at the Wabash Valley adult prison where Colt is being held, the story is more disturbing. Colt’s treatment within Indiana’s adult corrections system includes barbaric practices which verge on torture. I cannot shake the thought that Kosciusko County Judge Rex Reed specified that both boys were to have served their sentences in this medieval hell hole.

It brings new meaning to the idea of “blind justice.” Not only were the judges’ decisions based on blindness to the true facts in the case, but blindness to the morality of how a just and civilized society should deal with its children who become involved in serious crimes.

I am alarmed, astonished, and ashamed.

I am alarmed that any state in our nation can get away with placing children in harm’s way in institutions where they are at risk of rape, physical violence, and institutional abuse comparable to the stories we hear about the prison system operated by Himmler’s SS.

I am astonished that in a very short time we have been able to uncover the truth that was missed or ignored by the police and not questioned by the Kosciusko County judges.

And I am ashamed that this is happening in my home state of Indiana where my own experiences as a child growing up were filled with advantages that were as great as the injustices imposed on Colt and Paul Henry are abysmal.

۞

Groove of the Day

Listen to Depeche Mode performing “Policy of Truth”

30
Jan
11

informed judgment

There is a troubling picture emerging from my research into the story of how Kosciusko County Indiana judges, prosecutors, and probation officials engineered the outcome that 15-year-old Colt Lundy and 12-year-old Paul Henry Gingerich would be remanded to the adult court and corrections systems.

Indiana law says that children over the age of 10 can be charged, tried, and punished as adults for violent crimes—but it’s not automatic as in Pennsylvania; the justice system officials of a particular locality must decide to take this harsher line based on the factors involved in a particular crime.

Unfortunately, in the political calculus involved in such a decision it is easier to pander to the simplistic and wrongheaded notion that “if you do an adult crime, you deserve to serve adult time.” Waiver, decertification, or transfer of a child into the adult system based on the seriousness of a crime makes snappy headlines, but it is deeply flawed and counterproductive public policy. It’s important that we don’t confuse the seriousness of the crime with the maturity of a defendant. Just because a child commits a serious crime does not magically turn him into an adult.

The thing that’s troubling me is that big decisions affecting the lives of America’s children are being made on the basis of factual ignorance and flawed thinking, as happened so dramatically in Kosciusko County last April. One can see this in the media reports about Paul Henry’s perfunctory April 30, 2011 waiver hearing, which gave every appearance of judicial prejudice, where the following statements were made and reported:

Defense attorneys for both boys argued to Kosciusko Superior Court Judge Duane Huffer for more time to research those differences (between the brain development and culpability of children and adults) and what could have led to the shooting. But in supporting Lundy and Gingerich’s speedy waiver to adult court, Kosciusko County Prosecutor R. Steven Hearn said the nature and seriousness of what occurred demand expediency.

Ft. Wayne Journal-Gazette, May 16, 2010

 (The) planning and the nature of the crime itself presented a clear reason to remove the boys from the jurisdiction of the juvenile justice system and try them as adults, (Kosciusko County Deputy Prosecutor Dan) Hampton said.

Ft. Wayne Journal-Gazette, April 30, 2010

Kosciusko County’s Chief Probation Officer, Ronald Babcock, testified that the boys would benefit more if charged as adults. He says if they were charged as juveniles then they could be released at age 18 and may not receive proper rehabilitation.

http://www.dreamindemon.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-33905.html, April 29, 2010

“Our laws do not afford an effective rehabilitation for a child charged with murder,” (Kosciusko Superior Court Judge Dwayne) Huffer said, granting the prosecution’s request (to waive Paul Henry into adult status).

Ft. Wayne Journal-Gazette, April 30, 2010

It sounds like the Kosciusko choir was singing in harmony from the same hymnals, but they were holding their hymnals upside-down.

How do the judge, prosecutors, and probation officers get away with spouting such patent falsehoods, which are at total variance with recognized facts and mainstream expert opinion? How is it that the public allows them to keep their jobs and still hold public office?

The answer is that the public remained uninformed or misinformed through all the judicial proceedings. Yes, the media reported on the court proceedings as well as statements made on both sides, but claims were made and reported without reality checks. How in the absence of accessible, reliable, documented facts is the public to know if what Ronald Babcock or Judge Huffer said is true?

As we move forward on Paul Henry’s case, his website will provide links to a database of background information on all pertinent issues so that the media and public can begin checking the truth of what our “public servants” are saying and begin challenging the logic and efficacy of their decisions.

If such a database had been in place two years ago when the implausible claims about Jordan Brown began flying, it is possible an outraged public would not have allowed matters to go as far down the wrong path as they have by now.

Too many of our courts have gone political and, as instruments of political agendas, they are no longer delivering justice. It is my hope that we can force the courts to become more just by shining the light of truth on their proceedings.

Whether we can make a qualitative difference in the lives of children who get in serious trouble with the law remains to be seen. But we will give it our best effort and are organizing research volunteers right now to put a powerful public information resource in place to help kids like Jordan and Paul Henry.

Stay tuned.

۞

Groove of the Day

Listen to Squeeze performing “The Truth”

26
Jan
11

heartbroken

For the past three days I have been keeping a vigil for our poor henpecked bird. She has not moved and is just barely alive. She is nearly motionless in her box, surrounded by food and water, the wounds on her lacerated back dressed with ointment. I have not seen her take any water or nourishment.

She seems to have lost all will to live. Her tormentors have broken her. It may seem strange to say, but at a deep level I have been imagining what it must be like for her to have been nearly pecked to death. The thing which has most impressed and saddened me is the relentlessness of her sisters’ attacks. I truly believe the poor bird is heartbroken.

It is against the background of this fowl drama that I have been following young Paul Henry’s travails at Pendleton, where he has been the target of numerous small torments from his so-called “peers.” I spent a chunk of the morning yesterday writing him a letter of encouragement that built on Derek’s advice (see January 20’s “Only the Strong Survive”).

Unlike the poor hen who seems to have abandoned all hope, Paul Henry seems to be rallying his strength and courage. His mother visited him last evening, and I am looking forward to receiving a report from her this morning. I am finding this quality of information is so helpful in intuiting what Paul Henry is experiencing and matching the most appropriate support and services to his current situation.

As an advocate, I have never before experienced so high a degree of cooperation from all of the people in such a child’s life (both past and present), and I am astonished at all the things we have been able to accomplish in less than three weeks. These new and improved working methods bode well not only for Paul Henry, but for many future kids as well.

Besides the bonds that have been created with his parents, the most important relationship is that which has been established with Paul Henry’s new lawyer Monica Foster. Most lawyers have an aversion to using public information as a strategic defense of their clients. They tend to avoid the media in a flawed attempt to limit the action to whatever happens in the courtroom. In a court of law, the lawyers have the illusion of control because they alone understand the arcane workings of the law. But as we have seen in Pennsylvania, this approach can have disastrous results. 

While Jordan’s defense attorneys remained clammed up, the prosecution had a heyday promulgating its sensational, half-baked theories to the media who lapped it up. Within days of Jordan Brown’s wrongful arrest and incarceration, the media had already crucified the kid and portrayed his alleged guilt as a certainty. And all along, the TV film crews had the spectacle of the Houk family’s shameless vengeance show which was actively abetted by the police and prosecution.

(And now, in a January 23rd article by Chris Togneri of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, Nils Frederickson of the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office has the gall to say:  “Our attorneys do not conduct interviews about cases that are actively being litigated. I understand that some parties may be attempting to try this case in the media, but that’s not appropriate for the Attorney General’s Office.” Give me a break and spare us the hypocrisy. Now that Amnesty International and other credible organizations are siding with Jordan and we’re finally getting more balanced news coverage, the prosecution’s old rules no longer apply? You can dish it out, but you sure can’t take it! It’s a sure sign the prosecution knows they’re losing ground and have brought international dishonor to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.)

Monica is a bird of an entirely different feather and we are enjoying working together.

If more of these cases involving children were honestly examined—yes, even tried—in the media, we would soon enough have fewer bad judges like Rex Reed, Duane Huffer, and Dominick Motto, and fewer prosecutors like Dan Hampton and John Bonjivengo, who seem more concerned with election politics than performing their jobs with integrity, understanding, and compassion—even when young children are involved.

Isn’t it time that we stop behaving like mean hens and restore some humanity to society? The best place to start is with our own kids.

۞

Groove of the Day

Listen to Vladimir Horowitz performing Robert Schumann’s “Kinderszenen Op 15—Bittendes Kind”

(Scenes from Childhood—Pleading Child)

22
Jan
11

colt

The news about 15-year-old Colt Lundy that’s filtering out of the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility—the adult prison to which Kosciusko County Circuit Court Judge Rex Reed directed the boy be sent—is very sad. The boy is being held in solitary confinement and has taken to cutting himself, something he had never done to himself before. He is reportedly receiving only a half hour of counseling each week and is set off anytime anyone tries to touch him. His state of mental health appears to be deteriorating.

Attorneys who visited him last week report that whereas Colt’s biological father has been making an effort to visit his son from faraway Arizona, Colt’s relationship with his mother is understandably troubled following his murder of her husband and his stepfather Philip Danner on April 20th.

They said Colt asked how his friends Paul Henry Gingerich and Chase Williams are doing, he was told that Chase’s parents had been arrested on methamphetamine charges and that Chase is living with his grandmother after having been released after a several-month term at the South Bend Juvenile Correctional Facility; and that Paul Henry is serving time at the Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility. They said tears of relief and regret filled his eyes when he heard the news.

I must admit that on hearing this story, my attitude about this boy who had bullied his young friends into harm’s way—at times shooting them with a BB gun to force their compliance—began to soften. When I shared this information with Paul Henry’s parents (who certainly have greater reason than I to resent Colt), I could hear sadness and compassion in their voices. “I am praying for him,” Nicole said, and I believed her and admonished myself that I should follow her example. Even if everything works out for Paul Henry as I hope it will, it would be a hollow victory if Colt is destroyed by his prison experience.

In my opinion, Paul Henry was denied due process by the prosecutors and judges of Kosciusko County—and Colt was, too. (Other courts have allowed defense attorneys up to a year to prepare for waiver hearings; this court allowed defense attorneys only four business days—an outrage.) For the life of me, I cannot understand how any of these unworthy men—prosecutors Steven Hearn and Dan Hampton, and judges Duane Huffer and Rex Reed—can live with themselves after having subjected these children to such barbaric, unfair, inhumane, and cruel treatment. Their contemptuous use of the law undermines respect for the authority of the state and reinforces the callous and hateful spirit which threatens the survival our society at its roots.

At the same time, Colt Lundy’s experience within Indiana’s adult prison system fills me with profound gratitude that Paul Henry has been spared the same fate because of IDOC’s enlightened decisions so far. I thank God for the man who made the call that Paul Henry would be better and more safely served in Indiana’s juvenile corrections system. It was the first time a judge’s ruling to punish a child in an adult prison had not been followed, and I respect that man’s wisdom, moral backbone, reason, and courage.

It fills me with hope that we can and will do better for all of America’s children—even poor Colt Lundy.

۞

Groove of the Day

Listen to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young performing “Teach Your Children”

17
Jan
11

good news, bad news

Yesterday I was on the phone almost all day digging into the facts that have not been revealed in the media or in court testimony about the truth of why and how 12-year-old Paul Henry Gingerich became involved in Colt Lundy’s plan to murder Lundy’s stepfather on April 20th.

I have learned that a police detective lied on the stand about material facts in the case and misrepresented Paul Henry’s participation in an alleged “plan” to murder Colt Lundy’s stepfather. The playground planning engaged in by the boys was only about running away from home, not to commit murder. The murder was a last-minute change of plan pressed on the younger boys by the older Lundy less than ten minutes before the incident.

Important evidence that would have gone a long way to explaining the social dynamics of Lundy’s posse—and Paul Henry’s role and lack of culpability in events—was never introduced in court.

The more I dig and learn, the more convinced I am that a terrible miscarriage of justice has been perpetrated by the prosecutors and judges in Kosciusko County, Indiana, and that this injustice is about to be compounded by the state by sending this tender young boy to the Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility northeast of Indianapolis where, according to a US Department of Justice study released slightly more than a year ago, 36.2% of inmates report having been sexually abused by staff members and other inmates. This study concluded that Pendleton’s rate of youth-reported sexual abuse was the second-highest of 195 youth prisons studied by the federal authorities.

Contrary to what I reported in my January 13th post, I’ve learned the population at Pendleton has fewer than five inmates as young as Paul Henry. Most of the prison’s 300 inmates are much older—up to age 22—they are habitual repeat offenders, gang members and, most troubling, 50% are sex offenders. As is true with most other prisons in the US, approximately 75% have serious mental health conditions.

None of these characteristics match Paul Henry’s profile.

Paul Henry is a normal kid who has never been in serious trouble before. He is not a violent person, he has no mental illness, he is an impressionable “follower” who was bullied and manipulated by Colt Lundy into participating in a tragic incident and, in fact, had tried to talk Lundy out of carrying out his violent intention up until the last moment when Lundy’s stepfather appeared in the doorway and Lundy fired the fatal shots. Paul Henry got caught up in circumstances for which he was unprepared and developmentally ill-equipped to handle.

Here is a 2008 MSNBC program which reveals the frightening conditions within Pendleton that will greet Paul Henry in just a few days:

NOTE: This video has been removed from YouTube because of copyright infringement claims by the producer, who is a friend of ours. I am trying to get permission to post it here if their legal mavens will agree. Try again later. Maybe we’ll luck out!

Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I4ycTqEEK5M&feature=related

Part 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zg_w3sYzD0w&feature=related

Part 4: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3Py1692CLg&feature=related

Part 5: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1AUDVEgALSU&feature=related

The good news is that while the conditions at Pendleton are better than those at Wabash Valley Correctional Institution, the bad news is that they are likely not survivable for a child as young and naïve as Paul Henry.

The youthful offenders shown in this video are not suitable influences for this small boy who could be successfully rehabilitated were he placed in the South Bend Juvenile Correctional Facility, a medium/very-high security detention center with a smaller, younger, less violent, and less predatory inmate population.

It appears that IDOC’s decision to place Paul Henry in the “crime academy” at Pendleton is a compromise intended to placate the prosecutors and judges of Kosciusko County and avoid the public appearance of being “too soft” on a kid who became involved in a bully’s heinous crime.

But how will their decision play in the media when this small, attractive, and vulnerable boy becomes the victim of a violent sexual predator at Pendleton? If the federal report does accurately reflect Pendleton’s culture, there is an almost 40% certainty that it will happen.

When the full facts of this case become known, it will be shown that Paul Henry chose to enter Lundy’s house in order to protect his friend Chase Williams, whom Lundy had previously threatened with death if Chase did not follow Lundy’s orders. Chase was afraid of Lundy, but Paul Henry was not. He entered the house in Chase’s stead, with no intention of following through on Lundy’s orders.

But things went horribly wrong. Paul Henry was out of his depth that night, just as he will similarly be no match for the terror that awaits him in the jungle at Pendleton.

The eyes of the world will be on Paul Henry and the fate that will be inflicted upon him there. If Paul Henry is hurt in any way, there will be no way for the prison authorities to keep it a secret. There will be no way for them to avoid the severe political consequences of destroying this child.

The state’s focus should be on Paul Henry’s redemption, not retribution. The state of Indiana is embarked on a course that can only make a bad situation worse.

It is not too late for the Indiana Department of Corrections to do better than this. But they must act now before it is too late.

۞

Groove of the Day

Listen to James Blunt performing “Too Late”

11
Jan
11

hasty mistake

Yesterday I learned that I’d made a pretty serious error in my January 7th post, “Sleepless Night.” I had erroneously assumed that Superior Court Judge Rex L. Reed had also presided over 12-year-old Paul Gingerich’s April 20th waiver hearing, but I was wrong.

The absurd ruling to remand Paul’s case to the adult court was decided by another judge, Kosciusko Superior Court Judge Duane G. Huffer. One wants to believe that bad judges are an unusual thing, but apparently they run in packs.

I was new to the case facts and I hadn’t done my homework. I allowed my emotions to influence an illogical justification for haste in making the post.

It is so ironic that I should have committed the same error in thinking that was the basis of the event about which I was so worked-up: Paul Gingerich’s hasty and ill-conceived waiver hearing in which Judge Huffer remanded this child to Indiana’s adult court system.

In supporting Paul’s speedy waiver to adult court, Kosciusko County Prosecutor R. Steven Hearn said the nature and seriousness of what occurred demanded expediency. Deputy Prosecutor Hampton added that the planning and the nature of the crime itself presented clear reasons to remove the boys from the jurisdiction of the juvenile justice system and try them as adults.

Paul’s defense attorney argued to Judge Huffer for more time to research the deep psychological differences between adults and adolescents, and what could have led to the shooting. But amazingly Huffer, a former juvenile court judge, disagreed.

Could Huffer be ignorant of all the brain science findings about adolescents’ brain development and incapacity to think about their actions and consequences as adults can? Could he have been so blind to the implications of recent US Supreme Court rulings which establish as a fact of law that the questions Paul’s attorney needed more time to research are not insignificant or peripheral to his culpability? Did this man learn nothing from his years in the juvenile court?

Does this judge not realize that in cases in which very young people are involved in serious crimes, more time and an excess of caution should be afforded not only for the protection of the child, but the interests of society?

After a perfunctory 2-hour hearing, Huffer gave the prosecutors what they wanted, and rushed the case into the adult system. As I said the other day, a reporter told me his order had already been prepared and signed before the hearing even commenced—a claim not disputed by Paul’s attorneys.

Announcing his decision, Huffer said that as a juvenile judge for many years, he believes the juvenile justice system to be the proper place for handling children, albeit an imperfect one. But, he said, it has limits in dealing with such crimes.

Despite a large body of evidence to the contrary, Judge Huffer claimed that “our laws do not afford an effective rehabilitation for a child charged with murder.”

There was no need for this important decision to have been rushed, no matter what the judge and prosecutors claimed. These men were prepared and were not themselves rushed. Their strategy of speed was designed to make matters proceed at a pace that gave no one time to think.

I made an honest mistake the other day, and I caught and corrected it. But the same cannot be said for these men.

۞

Groove of the Day

Listen to Ron Sexsmith performing “Honest Mistake”

07
Jan
11

sleepless night

It must have been because of something a reporter told me yesterday about the Paul Gingerich case: even before the April 29, 2010 waiver hearing to determine whether 12-year-old Paul Gingerich would be tried as an adult or a child, Judge Duane Huffer had already prepared and signed his order to remand Paul to the adult system. This reporter told me that the two-hour hearing was “perfunctory.” Based on the seriousness of the crime, and not the developmental state of the defendants, the judge had already made up his mind before any arguments had been presented.

Is this “justice” when even the judge has so little respect for the integrity of the legal process that whatever arguments presented in proceedings are irrelevant before the hearings even commence?

I went to bed early last night, hoping one long night’s sleep would set me right, but was awakened in the wee-early hours of the morning by a dream of a man in a mask, black hat, and cape in the bedroom of the sleeping judge, who awakens.

“You’ve come to kill me, haven’t you,” he says to the masked man.

“Yes.”

“Thank God.”

This was just a dream, and I am not advocating violence against this very bad judge. However, I do believe he should be held accountable for his actions. It is so astonishing to me that anyone can believe it is just to sentence a young child who was bullied by an older schoolmate into participating in a crime, however heinous, to a period of incarceration in an adult prison more than twice as long as that child’s age.

At a minimum, Judge Huffer’s actions should be investigated by the Indiana Judicial Disciplinary Commission.

If Judge Huffer is able to sleep well with his conscience, he is not a suitable human being to serve on the bench.

۞

Groove of the Day

Listen to Bobby Lewis performing “Tossin’ and Turnin’”

(Retraction)

When this post first appeared, I had not realized that two judges have been involved in this tragic case, and said that Circuit Court Judge Rex L. Reed had presided over the April waiver hearing. I regret this error and apologize to Judge Reed for accusing him of having committed this particular outrage.




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