Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Indiana Felony murder: why a teenager who didn’t kill anyone faces 55 years in jail

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Sometimes—too frequently—the US criminal justice system seems to be an injustice system. Ed Pilkinton reports from Indian in the Guardian:

Blake Layman made one very bad decision. He was 16, an unexceptional teenager growing up in a small Indiana town. He’d never been in trouble with the law, had a clean criminal record, had never owned or even held a gun.

That decision sparked a chain of events that would culminate with his arrest and trial for “felony murder”. The boy was unarmed, had pulled no trigger, killed no one. He was himself shot and injured in the incident while his friend standing beside him was also shot and killed. Yet Layman would go on to be found guilty by a jury of his peers and sentenced to 55 years in a maximum-security prison for a shooting that he did not carry out.

How Blake Layman got to be in the Kafkaesque position in which he now finds himself – facing the prospect of spending most of the rest of his life in a prison cell for a murder that he did not commit – is the subject on Thursday of a special hearing of the Indiana supreme court, the state’s highest judicial panel. How the judges respond to the case of what has become known as the “Elkhart Four” could have implications for the application of so-called “felony murder” laws in Indiana and states across the union.

It was about 2pm on 3 October 2012, and Layman was hanging out after school in his home town of Elkhart with a couple of buddies, Jose Quiroz, also 16, and Levi Sparks, 17. They smoked a little weed, got a little high, and had a moan with each other about how broke they were.

Layman looks back on that afternoon and wonders why did he do it? Why did he throw it all away? He was doing well at school, had an evening job at Wendy’s, had a girlfriend he liked, was preparing to take his driving test. “It felt to me like life was really coming together at that point,” he said.

Within minutes, all that promise vaporised in an act of teenaged madness. Someone noticed that the grey pickup truck belonging to Rodney Scott, the guy who lived across the street, wasn’t in its usual parking spot. The homeowner must be at work or away somewhere. The house, by extension, must be empty.

On the spur of the moment, Layman and his teenaged buddies came up with a plan to break into the house, grab a few things to sell and quit before Scott returned. It would be easy, a harm-free ruse to get hold of some spending money.

It all happened so fast. They called a couple of older friends from down the road, Danzele Johnson, 21, and Anthony Sharp, 18, to join them. They knocked as loudly as he could on Scott’s door and when there was no reply – confirmation in their minds that the house was vacant – they broke open the side door. Five minutes out from having had the original idea, four of them were in the house with Sparks keeping lookout outside.

They ran through the kitchen, Layman pocketing a wallet on the kitchen table without stopping to think why it would be left there if the house was empty. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 March 2015 at 11:38 am

2 Responses

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  1. curi56

    2 March 2015 at 1:55 pm

  2. Reblogged this on Brian By Experience.

    Brian Dead Rift Webb

    2 March 2015 at 8:38 pm


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