The Elkhart 4 Goes National — Thanks Huffington Post

A fantastic editorial about The Elkhart 4 hit the national press today.  We are really excited to see the story gaining national attention.  Click here to read the editorial written by law professor Steve Drizin from the Northwestern University School of Law.  (We here at thank the Huffington Post for linking to our site!)

The Article — The Elkhart Four and the Unjust Application of the Felony Murder Rule on Teens



  • Sadly he makes an argument based on a false hood, and omission. The false hood is that the men were not armed. False. The sworn police affidavits show that one individual had a .22 handgun, and two others had armed themselves with knives from the kitchen of the homeowner that they were robbing. It demonstrates clearly that they indeed had the ability to foresee the outcome of their actions.

    By omission, he fails to mention that one of the individuals acted as a look out for the other 4, which clearly demonstrates that they were able to foresee other possible outcomes, and the lookout would warn them if any external danger existed.

    Nice try!

    • I will admit to having thought long and hard about the weapons situation in the case of The Elkhart 4. Although in the end it does not change my 100% conviction that this is a huge injustice and the felony murder rule is wrong, I can’t say for certain that the boys did not have weapons. But what I do know is that you can’t say for certain they did have weapons. . . here is how I know this.

      1. The affidavits that are so talked about were made in October 2012 and were used to lay the charges against the boys. The person who made the statements in the affidavit about weapons later swore under oath he was high on drugs when he made the statement. He also said that he lied while making the affidavits and that he could not remember what he had said. ( — Now you might argue that he was truthful during the affidavit and lied during the trial. I might argue that he was high on drugs during the affidavit and sober in court. In the end neither of us can prove our view because the testimony is so tainted.

      2. The police never found a gun and never presented a gun in court. In fact the only person to reference a gun can be discounted because they admitted to lying and their affidavits are unreliable.

      3. On September 24 2013 Kelly Stopczynski of WSBT said “Danzelle Johnson died while his friends committed a felony even though they didn’t have a gun or pull the trigger” Kelly Stopczynski is a local reporter who presumably talked to police and prosecutors to fact check the story. So this would be a huge error on her part if they did have a gun. (source: )

      4. If the state could prove that The Elkhart 4 had a gun it would have been all over the coverage. Given how controversial the case was, Mr. Hill would have spent a lot of time emphasizing possession of a gun during the protests because possession of a gun would bolster his charge. If Mr. Hill had emphasised possession of a gun, Ms. Stopczynski would not have had to fact check because it would have been common knowledge.

      5. We can find no reporting of a gun in any trial reference. Again if they could prove a gun it would have been all over the testimony and all over the news. The only reference to a gun comes from a very unreliable affidavit from October 2012.

      6. No weapon charges were laid against any of the Elkhart 4.

      7. Any reference to members of The Elkhart 4 possessing knifes comes again from the same very unreliable affidavit which was discussed in point 1.

      8. According to witness testimony a knife was found at the scene not by police but by a neighbor. The neighbor brought the knife to the police who at first were not interested and told him to keep the knife. Then they decided to take the knife. They found that the knife was part of a set belonging to the homeowner.

      9. To our knowledge no DNA or fingerprint evidence from the knife could tie it to the defendants. We don’t even know if the knife was tested for DNA/fingerprints. We find the lack of physical evidence concerning given the fact that the boys were covered with blood after being shot. If they had been in possession of the knife it would have been very difficult to clean off all the physical evidence, especially in the panic after being shot at, having a friend die and running from the police.

      10. The knife left the chain of evidence – it was not found by police and there is no evidence of how it got to where it was found in the first place.

      11. Like with the gun there is very little reference to knives in trial testimony. No one can place the boys with a knife except from an affidavit from an admitted liar.

      12. New — Local Reporter Tricia Harte WNDU says the teens weren’t armed —

      Now I admit that I cannot say conclusively that these boys did not have weapons. But you can’t conclusively say they did. Possession of weapons was not proven in court. There just is not the evidence to prove they did have weapons. Even their conviction for felony murder does not prove possession of weapons. For the felony murder conviction all that needed to be proven was the initial felony. The Elkhart Four were not charged or found guilty of possessing weapons. The only real reference to actual possession of weapons can be found in a affidavit from a very dubious source.

      In the article Mr. Drizin did mention that Levi Sparks did not enter the house, “Because Levi Sparks never even entered the house, he received a slightly shorter sentence”. What Mr. Drizin is doing in his article is explaining how Mr. Hill failed to take into account years of detailed and comprehensive studies which show significant issues with the culpability of teens based upon brain development. These studies are so important they are changing the way juvenile justice is handled in this country. The Supreme Court has issued a number or rulings in the last decade which are beginning to change the way teens are dealt with in the legal system. This research is changing the way many states and local prosecutors deal with juvenile defendants. We have documented two cases with very similar facts where the prosecutor took the juvenile status into account. These cases are from two of the most conservative states Florida and Alabama. Mr. Drizin’s article is reflective of a large and detailed body of comprehensive research which should not be ignored or dismissed because of personal feelings over one specific case.