How Would Canada Deal With the Elkhart Four?

As you can tell from my last post, the case of the 4 boys from Elkhart Indiana convicted of murder when they did not shoot the gun has greatly concerned me.  I place full responsibility for this miscarriage of justice on Elkhart County  Prosecutor Curtis Hill.  Mr. Hill has made decisions that will destroy the lives of Levi Sparks, Blake Layman, Anthony Sharp and Jose Quiroz.  Mr. Hill stated “People breaking into homes when there is someone there or someone not there, it has to stop and from our stand point we are going to use every available measure under the law to stop it.1

I think that Mr. Hill is destroying the lives of  these four boys to appear harsh on crime to get re-elected.  The truth is it will probably work for him.  After the boys are sentenced he will not give them another thought and he will continue along his political journey. Mr. Hill is telling the public what they want to hear, that sending these four boys away for 45 – 65 years is going to make Elkhart County safer.  Who is challenging him on this idea?  Where is his proof?  Does he have statistics to show that this is true?  Can he show how the high rate of incarceration for extended time periods is making the community safer?  There are many people who throw out the words “if you commit the crime you must do the time.”  This is a wonderful sounding phrase, but is it true?

The truth is clear . . . if sending people to prison with long harsh sentences cuts crime rates then the United States of America should be the safest country in the world.  The US has a little less then 5% of the world’s population, but around 25% of the world’s prisoners.  Look at this graph.

 Crime-Stats-1

The USA has more prisoners per 100 000 people than any other country in the world.  If you compare the USA to other western countries (Canada, Europe and Australia) you learn that the size of the US prison population is approximately 7 times higher per 100 000 people than in any other western democracy.

Mr. Hill seems to believe that if we put millions of people in prison, then the country will be safe.  Politically this works for Mr. Hill because most voters believe this to be true (as is seen by all the people commenting on news stories about this case advocating 65 year sentences).  If Mr. Hill were challenged he has a problem, the facts do not support this idea.

Although crime rates are hard to compare between countries because of different ways of reporting things there is no evidence to suggest that the huge increase in prison populations has made the USA safer than other countries.  In fact there is a lot of evidence to suggest that the USA is more dangerous (see link below comparing crime in USA and Canada)2.  It is also important to note that in the past few years crime rates have gone down in both countries.

In 2012 Marion County Indiana had 112 homicides3.  Marion county is where Indianapolis the largest city in Indiana is located and in 2011 the population was 911 296.  In comparison the City of Toronto, 6 hours drive east of Indiana, had a population of 2.615 million people in 2011.  Toronto had 54 homicide deaths in 20124Toronto has almost three times the population of Marion County but the total number of murders is less than half the murders in Marion County.

If Mr. Hill’s assertion that jailing people makes communities safer then Canada must have a huge prison system given the huge difference in murder rate . . . just the opposite, the USA has a larger murder rate and a prison population 7 times larger per 100 000 people.  The harsh laws that Mr. Hill supports don’t work, but he continues to support them.  The logical approach is to look at what is going on in Canada and see if there are lessons that can be learned.

So, out of general interest I am going to explore what would have happened if Levi Sparks, Blake Layman, Anthony Sharp and Jose Quiroz were involved in the exact same incident but this time the crime was committed in Toronto Canada.

It is important at this point to acknowledge that Levi, Blake, Anthony and Jose did commit a crime in October of 2012 (Break and Enter).  It is also important to acknowledge that Danzele Johnson was killed by a frightened Rodney Scott who was sleeping in his house when the boys broke in.  These boys participated in a crime.  Their friend Danzele was killed and Mr. Scott was seriously violated by their horrible behaviour.  This behaviour 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.

So if this crime were committed in Canada how would it be dealt with?

First the media would report that the crime was committed and that four people were charged.  The news could report the name and show a picture of Anthony Sharp because he was over the age of 18 at the time of the offence.  The news would then state that the others 3 charged were being charged under the Youth Criminal Justice Act and no names or pictures would be released.

Second the Crown (prosecution) in Canada would not be able to charge any of the boys (including Anthony Sharpe) with felony murder.  Canada did have a felony murder law but the Canadian Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional stating “a conviction for murder requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt of a subjective foresight of death”.  There is no way that you can argue this case and say Blake, Levi, Anthony and Jose went into that house thinking someone would die.  If the Crown could prove beyond a reasonable doubt that these boys entered the house intending to kill the resident, but the resident shot first, then we would have a different situation, but the fact of this case do not support this idea.

So in Canada these boys would have been charged with the crime they committed – break and enter.

Anthony Sharp would go through the adult court system and would either accepted a plea deal or go to trial.  If found guilty he probably would face a sentence of 12 to 36 months, but the judge could suspend the sentence based on Anthony Sharp’s character or make the sentence harsh based on character and any prior criminal record (if one exists).  For crimes like this a very common sentence in Canada is 2 years less a day.

Blake, Levi and Jose would enter the Youth Criminal Justice System.  The judge, Crown and defense team would work through the system.  If they were found guilty or plead guilty then the Judge would need to impose a sentence.  Legally the judge is mandated to impose a sentence that “strikes the best possible balance between the interests of the young person and the interests of society”3   This means the judge would need to ensure that the future of the offender is taken into account when punishment is decided.  As well the judge needs to think about the interests of the community.  Blake, Levi, and Jose might be incarcerated in a youth facility, sent to a diversion program or sent to do community service.  There would be intensive support right away designed to make restitution and meet the best interests of the young person.  Ideally the goal is to help the offender become a contributing member of society.  If all goes well by the time they reached the age of 20 they would have completed their debt to society.

For Blake, Levi and Jose their names and details would never be made public.  In Canada, only at the sentencing of a person that is under the age of 18 can a judge decide to publish the name and picture of the convicted.  This is only used in the most horrific of murder cases and would not be used in this situation.  Also at the age of 18 the record of this crime would be sealed.  There is an understanding that teenagers do stupid things and part of being able to live a productive life after the penalty is not having a criminal record hanging over them for a crime committed at such a young age.  Anthony Sharpe who was 18 at the time of the offence would have a criminal record for the rest of his life.  Of course a record of the conviction would be kept for police to review incase there were future criminal concerns.

So you can see this case would have a very different outcome if it occurred just 6 hours east of Elkhart in Toronto Canada.

So in Indiana these boys will be locked away in prison for 45 years costing the tax payers millions of dollars.  In Canada, as demonstrated above, their experience with the justice system would be very different.  If the “lock them up and throw away the keys” crowd is correct, the USA must be a very safe country compared to Canada which does not send as many people to prison.  Well statistics don’t show that to be true.  Check out these international crime comparison charts (there are more in a link listed below).  In many areas the USA has a higher rate of crime than Canada.  Also, as mentioned above the USA has a higher rate of sending people to prison and for a much longer time.

Crime Stats 2

Crime Stats 3

The higher rate of burglary in some countries might reflect that people are more comfortable reporting this crime

So Curtis Hill is going to spend over 2.5 million dollars to imprison these boys for 45 years even though the statistics and research show it will do nothing to improve community safety.  What this sentence will do for him is help with his re-election campaign.

Canada, like the USA does not have a perfect justice system.  There is no perfect justice system in the world (although the re-offending rates experienced in Norway are very low).  All justice systems make mistakes.  Guilty people go free and innocent people are sent to prison.  People we believe are ready for the outside world will re-offend and others will surprise us at how successful they are once they leave prison.  Some Prosecutors use common sense when approaching cases while others only think of political advantage.

We need prosecutors and elected representatives who make decisions based on crime reduction, human dignity, victims rights, and common sense.  We need our politicians to look at other justice systems and see what works.    We can learn from the good things in other countries to improve the current system  We can get rid of things like felony murder that do such damage.

What is evident is that the USA is spending billions of dollars yearly to keep millions of people in prison while having little success reducing crime compared to other countries that incarcerate much less.  Other countries don’t spend as much on prisons but manage to have lower crime rates.   This means “do the crime do the time” does not work.     What is being done in criminal justice system in the USA is not working, but the strong evidence that tells us this being ignored by people in positions of authority like Curtis Hill because it fits with their political agenda.

Levi, Blake, Anthony and Jose are about to be thrown into this failing prison system and for the most part the public is fine with it, even though all the research indicates they will be worse off at the end of their sentence.  At the time of the crime Levi, Blake and Jose could not vote, serve in the military or drink alcohol.  This is because the State of Indiana did not believe them to be mature enough to partake in those activities.  Mr. Hill, however believes that it is appropriate to send these kids away for decades into an abusive system which exposes them to the worst of the worst of society.   I think another crime is about to be committed, but this time the government is at fault.   This is not justice, it is pure politics.  

Mr. Hill  knows these statistics.  He must, given his position in the legal community.  He knows that harsh punishments don’t work, especially when people are charged with crimes they did not commit.  Do not forget Mr. Hill was the person who made the crazy decision to charge felony murder.  Mr. Hill also knows that through his actions there will be no redemption for these four boys and Elkhart Country will not be any safer.  For him it is not about truth or common sense, it is about winning the next election.  He is playing politics with these boys lives and he is about to win unless the people of Elkhart County stand up and tell him to stop.

Curtis-Hill5

Resources — September 1 — I have decided to add a bit more detail to my resources

This is where I got the quote from Curtis Hill

1.  http://www.abc57.com/home/top-stories/Teens-charged-with-murder-in-deadly-home-invasion-173361861.html?m=y

Scroll down all the pictures and you can see the graph that I have used comparing prison populations in several different countries.  Per 1000 000 people the USA has so many more incarcerated people than other countries — especially Canada which was a focus of my writing.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2223626/Prisons-America-breaking-point-million-citizens-bars.html

Here is some information put out by Statistics Canada comparing crime rates in Canada and the USA

2.  http://web4.uwindsor.ca/users/m/mfc/41-240.nsf/0/10ff8b04ff3a317885256d88005720f6/$FILE/ATT8BNDV/0110185-002-XIE.pdf

Here is an editorial in the Toronto Start by the former Children and Youth Minister Dr. Eric Hoskins.  The main point of the editorial is highlighting budget cuts to the juvenile justice system from the national government.  The reason I included this link can be found mainly in the first three paragraphs where Dr. Hoskins talks about the goals of the youth justice system in Ontario and how it is working.

http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/2012/07/09/shortsighted_federal_cuts_to_youth_justice_programs.html

This is a report compiled in the UK comparing crime rates in many western countries.  I included two charts in my writing, but there are many others.  It is an interesting read.

http://www.civitas.org.uk/crime/crime_stats_oecdjan2012.pdf

This is the Wikipedia article which talks about the Youth Criminal Justice Act in Canada.  I am not a huge fan of Wikipedia but it is easier to access than huge government files.  I have therefore also included the link to the full Canadian Youth Criminal Justice Act. The full act is complex but an interesting read.  I have highlighted some aspects of the act, but remember that often what is in an act looks very different on paper than in practice.  Like in all justice systems there are concerns with the implementations and even though Canada is an example it is by no means perfect (as I said before there is no perfect justice system.)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Youth_Criminal_Justice_Act#Purpose_of_Sentencing

http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/cj-jp/yj-jj/yjs-sjj/index.html

Here is the link detailing the number of murders in Marion County Indiana in 2012.  What I find really interesting is the fact that police felt that 112 murders showed improvements for the city.  I think this is to be commended, we all need to work to decrease murder rates, but when compared to the rate in Toronto Ontario for 2012 the numbers are significant.

3.  http://www.indystar.com/article/20130103/NEWS02/130103038/Marion-County-finishes-2012-112-homicides?nclick_check=1

Here is the official homicide statistics for Toronto as compiled by the Toronto Police.  It is interesting to compare them to the numbers for Marion County given the population difference.

4.  http://www.torontopolice.on.ca/statistics/ytd_stats.php

Here is info on the felony murder rule — specifically detailing the fact that the Supreme Court of Canada ruled the felony murder law unconstitutional in 1990.  Again I have used wikipedia for a quick reference but I have included the original text of the ruling from the Supreme Court of Canada case.  The case is R. v. Martineau.  (R stands for Her Majesty the Queen v. Martineau)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Felony_murder_rule

http://scc.lexum.org/decisia-scc-csc/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/646/index.do

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BREAK AND ENTER IN CANADA

The crime of Break and Enter in Canada is an interesting crime.  It can be broken into two groups Break and Enter and Home Invasion.  Home Invasion is  more serious and it is when a home is broken into while a resident is home and the criminal knew or had good reason to know the person was home and the criminal used violence or threats against the home owner.  Home Invasion is a more serious crime then Break and Enter.   The Crown might try that charge home invasion in the case of the Elkhart 4.  There are some mitigating factors that might make that charge difficult for the Crown.  First the boys determined (although falsely) that no one was home so their intent was to enter an unoccupied dwelling.  Secondly from all accounts when they realised the home was occupied (shooting began) they tried to escape . . . this means the boys did not use violence or threats against the home owner.

Break and Enter is divided also into dwelling or non-dwelling.  The case of the Elkhart 4 would be a break and enter into a dwelling.  In Canada for this crime the judge can sentence anywhere from no sentence to life with parole.   As mentioned in the links listed below there are many things the judge needs to consider while determining the sentence and most sentences for adults where the judge decides a prison sentence is needed result in 12 – 36 months.  In Canada if you are sentenced to two or more years in prison you go to a federal facility.  Less than two years you are in a provincial prison.  That is why two years less a day is a common punishment.  The sentences discussed above are adult sentences.  For Levi, Blake and Jose the sentence would be determined under the Youth Criminal Justice System.

http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Canadian_Criminal_Sentencing/Offences/Break_and_Enter

http://yourlaws.ca/criminal-code-canada/348-breaking-and-entering

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I hope this helps.  If you know of any reports or stats that would add to this debate please send the link my way in the comments section.  Thanks

15 comments

  • Reblogged this on ChildreninPrison and commented:
    There is no room for hope, not only for a second …
    I am sick Hearing from bringing children & juvenile in prison – for ever

    • Hope is the only thing that will inspire people to act. Writing about the issues, talking to friends, participating in honest debate and listening to the opinions of others will lead to change. Perhaps that change will be too late for the youth of today, but we need to keep going for the next generation.

      Unfortunately I think tugging at heart strings does not work with the public. For the most part the public want the so called “bad people” gone from society. I think the this issue is going to be addressed because of two factors. First continued cases going to the higher courts (I think JLWOP will need to go back in front of SCOTUS soon). The second and perhaps most important has already started and it is the understanding that the USA has no more money and can no longer sustain the industrial prison complex it has created. Politicians are going to need to reduce the number of prisoners and this will force them to re-evaluate some of these crazy laws they are currently enforcing.

      Please don’t give up on hope.

  • This is amazing! Thank You so much for seeing that Yes what these children did was wrong but there is no way they could have foreseen anyone dying this law is out dated and needs to be abolished like in most states!

    • Thanks for your comments . . . I am still editing the post a bit so if anyone sees a typo please let me know. Editing has never been my strong point.

      • I think it is the best thing I have read so far and I want you to publish it in as many places as
        you possibly can!

      • Thanks for your comment. I just post here. I have no connection to anyone even remotely involved in this case and I really don’t know who would be interested in my writings. Truth be told I have never really written about something like this before. I have always been interested in different legal systems. When I read about this case I became very concerned and began to do research. Even though Curtis Hill has acted within the law I think the decisions he has made prosecuting this case are horrific. That is why I decided to write what I have written. Truth be told I am surprised anyone has read what I have written. Sorry I can’t help . . . I don’t really know how to get more people reading my stuff.

  • WE NEED TO DO EVERYTHING POSSIBLE TO HELP THESES KIDS BEFORE ITS TO LATE! We are having a cook out rally @ Bonneville Mill park @ 2pm tomorrow! Would love for you to come!

    • I would love to come, but need to work and do not live in the area. Best of luck. I sent you an email about the other request. Thanks again for reading my blog.

  • I am a strong believer of free speech. In fact I benefit from it because my views are very different from the views of many in the community. Last night I was placed into a small moral dilemma when I received a comment on my blog. Just by starting this type of blog I knew that some people would not like what I said. I believe this is good. Honest debate means expressing different opinions. Honest debate can often by messy. I hope to hear from people who oppose my views and can point to articles and studies that support their ideas. By being exposed to alternative ideas I will be challenged and hopefully my thoughts and ideas will evolve and mature.

    My moral dilemma comes in the content of the post I received. The first part of the post expressed the person’s view on my article. The second part of the post was written in a sexually inappropriate way and was aimed at another individual who has already commented on my blog.

    With this in mind I have decided to post what the comment said about my writing. For honesty sake I need to let readers know that I have edited out the inappropriate sections. In this case I do not believe the inappropriate writing threatened violence, but if I did believe that then I would contact the person the post was written about and the local authorities. This is a blog dedicated to justice, it is not a forum to promote hate, violence and sexual violence. Below please find the writing of the person whose comments I have edited. Also please find my response. Thanks.

    THE COMMENT:
    “Regardless of what you wrote, we have laws in this country, and Blake and his criminal friends are guilty of felony murder. Leave Curtis Hill out of it. He charged well within his boundaries.”

    MY REPLY:
    A frank and honest debate requires that individuals interact with the ideas of others. It is often messy, morally challenging and you quickly come to understand that sometimes there are no answers. You are correct that Curtis Hill charged within his boundaries. That is why I can’t leave him out. How Mr. Hill decides to charge individuals is the clearest indication of the moral and ethical way he approaches his job. Some think that throwing the book at these boys was the right thing to do. I do not think that way. I think I did a good job explaining myself in this article. I will however say this . . .16 year old kids do stupid things. Some 16 year old kids do really evil things. If we are going to throw the book at a 16 year old kid we at least need to ensure that they have done something really evil. I am 100% sure that these boys were really stupid . . . I am also 100% sure that they never expected their friend to die. I am 100% sure that these kids are not evil . . . even Mr. Hill can’t say they intended for someone to die when they entered that house. These kids are not irredeemable , but Mr. Hills actions show he thinks they are. In my opinion this reflects very negatively on Mr. Hill. I have concern when a government official gives up on a 16 year old kid. In my last post on how much money jailing these kids is going to cost the state I referenced the case of Alan K. Simpson former US Senator from Wyoming who between the ages of 16 and 18 set fire to abandoned military structures. Simpson and his friends stole bullets from the hardware store and played a game where they tried to shoot as close as possible to a person without hitting them. Simpson now admits he was lucky no one died. Blake, Levi, Jose and Anthony were stupid but their actions are not, horrific as Senator Simpsons. Simpson became a US Senator and these boys are going away for decades. The reason for this is a decision made by Curtis Hill. This decision reflects on him so I will comment on his actions. Mr. Hill is a public figure and if he believes in democracy (I believe he must) he will accept that people will criticise his actions. I have used facts, figures and research to back up my concerns. I am not just writing a sentences quickly.

    Finally your dismissal of my arguments stating “Regardless of what you wrote” suggests to me that you are not really engaged in the debate about the justice system instead you are interested in punishing these boys. You are entitled to want this . . . but until you attempt to demonstrate with statistics, supporting documentation and clear articulate arguments that jailing these boys for decades is the right way to go you are not engaging in the debate.

  • Well done Blogger.

    Instead of publishing what I wrote, word for word, you attempt to discredit me by insinuating what I have written. No points for you on that.

    Here is the problem with your case as I see it.

    Wikipedia is discredited as a source. If you attempted to turn in a scholarly effort to a school of any kind, this work would be rejected out of hand, and I have to also reject it for the same reason. Let us instead deal with facts.

    The family of Blake Layman would have you believe that these men are guilty of almost nothing, and should have gotten a slap on the wrist and a sentence of milk and cookies, followed by a suspension of their playground recess rights. They want you to believe that these individuals were just in the wrong place at the wrong time, that they had NEVER done this before, that there were no weapons, and that they were very discriminate about their choice of home. The family and friends have attempted to poison the jury pool with false information, and as someone who both knows the individuals, and cares greatly about the ills of such people living in the same society as me, I for one am happy to see them incarcerated for as long as necessary to keep them off of the streets.

    The family would have people believe, laughably that felony murder is an archaic law, and that states are abolishing it left and right. Both assertions are false. The fact is that 46 out of 50 states have a felony murder statue on the books.

    The family would have you believe that NO weapons were used in the commission of the felony. The facts differ from this assertion. The probable cause document against Blake Layman suggest that one of the men had a .22 handgun, and that the others had knives that they obtained from the home. In fact one of the knives was dropped by one of the robbers who fled, and the knife was found a short distance from the home. I asked the Grandmother of Blake Layman repeatedly on the forum of the Elkhart Truth, who proclaimed the angel innocence of all parties how the knife found its way to the neighbor’s yard; i.e. did it migrate? Did it walk there? Did it fly? Is it possible the men had weapons?

    We hear assertion after assertion that the men NEVER did this thing before, yet a wallet from a home owner was found inside of the home were these men were apprehended. Again, did it fly there?

    Finally there is the despicable statement by family friend, Jennifer Szabo who stated after the verdict was read, and on local TV station WNDU that the home owner was somehow solely responsible for what happened to those men that day. If this does not somehow recap the disingenuous pattern of denial from this family and shills that they have used to perpetuate this fraud on the people of Elkhart County and beyond, I have no idea what this is.

    Here is what will happen on September 12. All of these men will be sentenced to not less than 55 years, some, those like Blake who were in the home attempting to menace that poor homeowner with a weapon will likely, and hopefully receive a 65 year sentence.

    And then…Justice will be served.

    • I make no apologies for editing your comment. You made a personal attack on another poster specifically referring to the relationship between that poster and their partner. The comment had nothing to do with the topic being discussed and was in poor taste. This is my blog . . . I reserve editorial rights to edit out hateful, violent, rude, sexually explicit and comments that are made in bad taste. If you are unable to live by these rules you do not need to participate in discussions on this blog.

      Your comment about Wikipedia clearly shows that you did not read my reference section. I referred to Wikipedia in 2 situations. One was for the Canadian Youth Justice Act and the other was for the Canadian Supreme Court ruling abolishing felony murder. In my end notes I stated “This is the Wikipedia article which talks about the Youth Criminal Justice Act in Canada. I am not a huge fan of Wikipedia but it is easier to access than huge government files. I have therefore also included the link to the full Canadian Youth Criminal Justice Act. The full act is complex but an interesting read.” I then include the link to the Government of Canada full text of the Youth Criminal Justice Act. I did the same with the reference to the Canadian Supreme Court Case. I did this to provide a quick option for people browsing or the detailed actual documentation that my writing is based on. Did you read this section of my writing before you posted your comment?

      You then go on to provide your detailed interpretation of the case and your prediction on what will happen at sentencing. I was convinced before I wrote a word on this case that these boys did something horrible in October of 2012. In fact I dedicate all of paragraph 10 stressing that these boys need consequences for their actions. Did you read that part of my writing?

      I am using the case of these boys as a tool to make an argument about the justice system in the USA. These boys committed a crime (you think it is murder, I think it is break and enter). These boys have been convicted of a crime and now they are entering the punishment stage. Most people, like you, call for harsh long jail sentences in situations like this. The USA has responded and does long harsh sentences. In fact governments have done things so well that for every 100 000 people around 750 are in prison. There is no western country in the world near that. Canada has about 110 people in prison for every 100 000 people. Who is paying this cost in the USA? The tax payer? Then I looked at crime rates and guess what . . . the USA has more crime than other western countries. So the USA is spending more on prisons than other countries, but are not getting lower crime rates. The most startling statistic is this . . . in 2013 as of September 4 Marion County has had 94 murders. Toronto has had 40 homicides. In Chicago there were 184 homicides in the first 6 months of this year. Also in 2013 Toronto overtook Chicago to become the forth largest city in North America after Mexico City, New York, LA. What is going on when Toronto with 2.7 million people has a significantly smaller number of actual homicides that Marion County with a population a little under 1 million people. I think the lock them up and throw away the key model does not work and is costing the taxpayers millions of dollars. Why do these numbers not outrage the population in Indiana. What is your solution to the crazy differential in these numbers?

      You obviously do not believe there is any redemption for these boys, I disagree with you strongly on this one. In my last post I directed you to the story of former US Senator Alan Simpson who was a horror when he was a teenager (aged 16 – 18). The crimes he described were horrific and intentional . . but he was able to turn his life around and he became a US Senator. These boys lives are a mess right now, but there was no intentional murder here . . .I believe that they can become productive members of society . . but I know I am in the minority. There is already a film crew documenting this case in Elkhart Country because of what it says about the justice system and the community. Unfortunately I don’t think Elkhart County will come out well in this film because what this case shows about the people of the county is that for most redemption is not an option. I am arguing that it is crazy to ignore redemption when it seems to work in other places, especially when compared to the current model used in Indiana supported by you which is “lock them up and throw away the key”.

      Sadly, I believe you will get your way and these boys will be sent away for a long time. I don’t think it will make Elkhart County any safer in the short term. In the long term I think people will look back on this case and realise that what happened was a miscarriage of justice. There is already a film crew documenting this story because it is such a blatant and unique example of a failing justice system run by people unable to admit how wrong things are going.

      • Let me begin by stating that I thank God every day I am American, and while our liberal president is trying to ruin our country in much the same way that the liberals have decimated Canada, we at least have the state rights that can temper much of the damage. For example 46 out of 50 States have a Felony Murder provision, 22 of them provide for capital punishment for same.

        You mentioned numerous places how the youth of the men committing these crimes must be factored in. I can only tell you, that the way it works in America is if you are old enough to commit “Adult” crimes, you are old enough for an “Adult” punishment.

        You stated that it costs millions of dollars to house these men in jail, but on the other hand a crew like this can be the cause of many millions of dollars in theft, insurance costs, damage, lost time and wages, police costs (present and future). Really? Do you really believe that society should take on the extra burden of having to live amongst the ever present danger of miscreant individuals as if this were the Clock Work Orange and they were the droogs?

        Need I remind you, these individuals were not children stealing from a candy store. The wallet from a previous robbery showed up in the closet where the home owner cornered them. At the risk of being repetitive the weapons that they were armed with demonstrates that the outcome of their actions were foreseeable, or else they would have brought umbrellas in case it rained.

        The final objection I have is this, you echo what the family says in that nobody should be responsible for the death of Danzelle Washington the young man who lost his life while this crew was committing this heinous felony. To say that they are not responsible for what happened is also saying that his life was so worthless, that no one is responsible for the loss of his life. Unlike outspoken family friend, Jennifer Szabo, who stated that the home owner was solely responsible for the death of Danzelle, we know that his blood is on the hands of the men who cooperated with him in this crime, and that blood deserves justice.

        After they begin their 55 to 65 year sentences on September 12, these men will have an opportunity to earn their GED, learn a trade, study the bible, and commit to a better life, that choice is theirs. With my tax dollars, it is possible.

      • I have always viewed the “wave the flag blame a liberal” card in a debate a defence that is played as a last desperate attempt to rescue a failing argument. This is a debate on crime . . . if liberal policies have decimated Canada then explain the low prison population and the low murder rate. To repeat — to date in 2013 — Marion County Indiana 94 murders population a little under 1 million — Toronto Canada 40 murders population about 2.7 million! (see links below) Numbers don’t lie explain how these numbers represent a decimation of Canada? How do you get off ignoring hard confirmed statistics.

        We get it . . . you don’t like Blake Layman and want him gone from society — what you don’t seem to get is that the debate on this blog is not about Blake specifically — it is about the entire criminal justice system that is failing society. I am using the case of the Elkhart 4 to illustrate how the public and politicians ignore hard facts in favour failed policies. Your willingness to ignore hard statistics and dismiss without real discussion an alternative system proves my point — thanks!

        If other countries have developed ways to reduce crime and reduce rates of incarceration isn’t the right thing to do to look at what they are doing and see how their successes can be adapted to the system? Your attitude seems to be to dismiss others without a thought because they might be more liberal or maybe they are not American. If we refuse to learn from others we will keep making the same mistakes we are currently making. Albert Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Maintaining the status quo is insanity because the status quo does not work.

        Might I also remind you that the whole “adult crime adult time” idea is slowly changing in America. 2005 — Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) rules no capital punishment for under 18’s — 2010 — SCOTUS rules no life without parole for non – homicide cases for under 18 year olds in the US — 2012 — SCOTUS rules no mandatory life without parole for under 18 year olds in the US — SCOTUS says age must be a mitigating factor when sentencing a person under 18 to a life sentence. Brain and developmental research is daily changing the way we view maturity levels of teenagers. There are more cases coming up that will continue to challenge the system and we are awaiting several important court decisions from across the USA (like the one in Michigan in August banning Life Without Parole for all persons under 18).

        Finally,

        I agree with you that we need to remember that someone did die in this crime. Might I suggest that the person we select to lead this effort has the decency to know the correct name of the victim before they begin the tribute! (Danzele Johnson not Danzelle Washington)

        Links to Murder Numbers — Marion County Indiana and Toronto, Ontario Canada

        http://www.indystar.com/article/20130625/INTERACTIVE01/306250077/Interactive-Marion-County-homicide-map

        http://www.torontopolice.on.ca/statistics/ytd_stats.php

  • Just curious at any rate why you pick one of the most murder intensive counties in Indiana, which is overpopulated by African Americans which overrepresent criminal activity versus Toronto which is currently overpopulated by Asians that typically under represent criminal activity.

    Are you serious? How does this square up with the fact that Blake Layman and his criminal empire needs to spend their lives in jail?

    • Fair question on my selection of Toronto and Marion County. I selected the two largest metropolitan areas (Toronto for Canada, Marion Country for Indiana). If you read my post in detail you will find a chart listing the homicides per 100 000 people in several countries. You will see that USA is at 5.0 homicides per 100 000 people while Canada is at 1.8 homicides per 100 000 people. There are many other examples I could have used. One of the most interesting is the city of Windsor Ontario which had 4 homicides in 2010, 2011 and 2012 combined. Including a 26 month period of no homicides. Basically the homicide rate in Canada is massively lower than the USA . . . The numbers don’t lie.

      Curtis Hill has decided to send three juveniles and one 18 year old away for the majority of their lives for this death. There was no intent to kill and they did not shoot the bullet. Curtis Hill says he is doing this to get them off the street, send a message and reduce crime. If long sentences worked then the USA would be the safest country in the world . . . .The cost of this sentence is crazy and all evidence says sentences like this do not work. Why is Mr. Hill doing this? Political gain . . . people falsely believe long harsh sentences make things safer . . . this is a wrong assumption. One of the problems is that many people do not really understand how significant the justice system is failing the country. Even more concerning are people who when exposed to the hard statistical facts dismiss the data without thought preferring to blame ethnic minorities and the liberals.

      http://www.police.windsor.on.ca/services/open-data/Pages/Crime-Statistics.aspx