In October 2012 four teens and one young adult from Elkhart County Indiana made a horrible decision that would change their lives forever. Not in school they decided one afternoon to break into a house. They knocked on doors and decided that one house was empty. Jose Quiroz (age 16), Blake Layman (age 16), Anthony Sharp (Age 18) and Danzele Johnson (age 21) broke into the house. Levi Sparks (age 17) waited on the porch of the house across the street.
Sleeping in the house at the time was Rodney Scott, the homeowner. Mr. Scott, was woken by the noise of the burglary, grabbed his gun and shot several times. The bullets killed 21 year old Danzele Johnson and wounded 16 year old Blake Layman.
Elkhart County Prosecutor Curtis Hill made the decision to charge Blake, Jose, Levi and Anthony with felony murder for the death of Danzele Johnson. All were charged as adults. Felony murder is a part of the law which states that if someone dies during the commission of a felony everyone involved in the felony can be charged with first degree murder. The prosecutor does not need to prove the intent to murder, just intent to commit the initial crime.
After months in Jail 16 year old Jose Quiroz accepted a plea deal. At sentencing Jose Quiroz said he wanted to withdrawal the deal. Judge Terry Shewmaker denied this request and sentenced a sixteen year old boy to 45 years in prison for a murder he did not do.
Layman, Sharp and Sparks went to trial in August of 2013 and were found guilty. On September 12, 2013 Judge Shewmaker sentenced Blake Layman and Anthony Sharp to 55 years in prison and Levi Sparks to 50 years in prison. Again for a murder they did not do.
These boys did commit a crime in October of 2012 (Break and Enter). It is awful that Danzele Johnson was killed by a frightened Rodney Scott who was sleeping in his house when the boys broke in. The behaviour of Blake, Levi, Anthony and Jose cannot be condoned. These boys must learn an important lesson here. A well functioning society can’t have people acting with such disregard to others . . . but, none of these boys murdered anyone . . . three of them were juveniles at the time . . . the person who died in this case was a friend who they continue to mourn for. Does the actions of these boys warrant 55 years in prison with the worst of the worst? In our opinion this case demonstrates a huge overreach of the criminal justice system. Any possibility of redemption has been abandoned and these boys are being thrown away to spend their lives in a failing and often brutal prison system.
This blog is dedicated to discussing this horrible injustice. It is also dedicated to discussing juvenile justice issues in the USA.
This blog is not associated with any of the families or people involved in this case. The main goal of this blog is shine a light on a what we consider to be a horrible injustice in a system that tolerates far too many injustices.
Our Stories on the Elkhart 4:
Deja Vu — Snother Similar Case, Another Different Result — October 6, 2013
One Year On — Three Questions Curtis Hill Does Not Want Us Asking — October 3, 2013
2 Cases, Similar Facts, Different Outcomes — September 27, 2013
The Elkhart Truth Article: A good start but 353 days late – September 22, 2013
It will cost taxpayers at least 3.1 million dollars to send the Elkhart 4 to prison — September 17, 2013
An Editorial in The Elkhart Truth With a Strong And Powerful Message — September 15, 2013
Does the Goshen News Favour Curtis Hill? – September 15, 2013
How Would Canada Deal With The Elkhart 4 — August 30, 2013
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