A Small Victory As the Appeals Begin


Over the next months we will have our eyes on the Indiana Appeals Court.  We will be watching the as the conviction appeals for Blake Layman, Levi Sparks and Anthony Sharp make their way through the system.  We have no doubt that these cases will be very interesting to follow and will provide the judges with much to consider.

The supporters of The Elkhart 4 have had their first victory (a very small one) in the appeals court.  This victory was in Blake Layman’s appeal.

On October 7, 2013 Elkhart County Judge Terry Shewmaker held a final hearing to begin the appeals process for Blake Layman.  In that hearing Layman’s lawyer Cara Weineke asked Judge Shewmaker to have Blake declared indigent so that she could get copies of the trial transcripts.   In an interview with The Indiana Law Review Weineke said “If a person is found indigent, the court may give that person permission to proceed with legal action without having to pay court fees or costs”.

On October 11, 2013 Judge Terry Shewmaker ruled against Blake Layman deciding he would need to pay the thousands of dollars for trial transcripts.

On November 1, 2013 the Appeals Court reversed Judge Shewmakers decision allowing Ms. Weineke to get the court records.

This is a good decision.  It is important for fair justice that all defendants have the opportunity to appeal their conviction no mater their financial situation.  It is very obvious that a 17 year old who has been in county jail for a year and is facing decades in prison does not have the financial capability to pay the thousands of dollars for trial transcripts (apparently it costs $2.80 per page).

The appeals will be long.  There will be small set backs and small victories.  We are confident and hopeful that the lawyers will argue their cases with skill at vigour.  We are confident and hopeful that the judges will listen and consider the arguments of both the state and The Elkhart 4.  We are confident and hopeful that the judges will consider all the issues carefully before they release their ruling.

It is nice to have a small victory at the start of a long process.

Here are screen shots from the country court record and the appeals court record showing the ruling of Judge Shewmaker and the ruling of the appeals court.

Elkhart County Court Records

Elkhart County — Denies Layman’s Request

Layman Appeals Court Record 1

Appeals Court Approves Layman’s Request


  • In a country that defends human rights around the world the situation of the Elkhart 4 is incomprehensible. The consequences obviously do not fit the crime. As a Canadian there is not much that I can do to change an American justice system but I am praying for these young men and the lawyers who are fighting for their rights.

    • @Peggy, just a small, and off topic, correction to your post. America does not defend human rights around the world. It defends or increases its economic interests and then uses a huge media machine to dress that up as “defending human rights”. The record on that speaks for itself.