Elkhart 4 Appeals Update #2

Friday January 24, 2014 was an active day in the appeals of 2 of the Elkhart 4.  A number of important decisions were made in the appeals of Levi Sparks and Blake Layman.

The most important decision that was made was that the appeals for Blake Layman and Levi Sparks have been joined together to form one appeal.  This was done under Indiana Appeals Court Rule 38, which states,

Rule 38. Motion To Consolidate Appeals

A. Cases Consolidated at Trial or Hearing. When two (2) or more actions have been consolidated for trial or hearing in the trial court or Administrative Agency, they shall remain consolidated on appeal. If any party believes that the 20 appeal should not remain consolidated, that party may file a motion to sever the consolidated appeal within thirty (30) days after the first Notice of Appeal is filed.

B. Cases Consolidated on Appeal. Where there is more than one (1) appeal from the same order or judgment or where two (2) or more appeals involve a common question of law or fact, the Court on Appeal may order a consolidation of the appeals upon its own motion, or upon the motion of any party.

It is interesting that Blake Layman and Levi Sparks have had their appeals joined together while Anthony Sharp is not involved in the joint appeal even though he has filed an appeal.  Based on pure speculation this strongly suggests to us that the issue of age will be an important aspect of the appeals.  Anthony Sharp was 18 at the time of the burglary so an argument based on being a juvenile is not available to him.

Other rulings on Friday dealt with financial obligations.  Blake Layman has already been declared a pauper, which means that the costs of reproducing transcripts have been waved.  Levi Sparks has been asked to pay for the transcripts of his sentencing hearing but no other court fees.  Presumably since Blake Layman’s legal team has already had the trial transcripts prepared they do not need to have it done a second time for Levi Sparks given that both juveniles were tried in the same trial.

Another important ruling published on Friday was the deadline for the lawyers for Blake Layman and Levi Sparks to have their briefs into the court.  Both briefs must be submitted to the court by February 21, 2014.

According to rule 45 of the Indiana Appeals Court once Sparks and Layman submit their briefs the State of Indiana will have 30 days to respond.  Sparks and Layman will then have 15 days to respond and then the state will have 15 days to respond.  At that point a decision will be made to see if the case needs to proceed to oral arguments.  Most appeal cases in Indiana do not have oral arguments, but some do.  Often the decision to go to oral arguments depends on the elements of the law that is being argued.  The appeals court can take as long as necessary to publish a ruling.

Link to the rules of the Indiana Court of Appeals

Indiana Clerk Of Courts Online Docket Search 


  • I agree that an appeal should be made, sentence much too long, however I am a little tired of young boys like this thinking that they can do a break and enter without consequences and then whine about their long sentence, and one youth was killed in the process. What I would like to see is a reduced sentence only given if they all agree to paying $25 per week for the next twenty years out of their weekly pay when they begin working to reimburse the system for all the costs associated with their decision, cost of police, lawyers, judge, etc. that honest citizens like you and I are paying for. There should be some type of restitution on the part of all those that commit a crime to offset the cost to society of their actions..

  • I agree with the felony murder charge if the victim or a innocent bystander was killed in the commission of the crime. However when one of the actors ( the persons committing the crime) was the one who was killed, I feel this rule should not apply. I think if one of the actors were killed in the commission of the crime then all of the others involved should receive the maximum sentence for that offense …. which would be burglary or breaking an entry. These are male teenagers … that should not be treated like adults because they are not … teenagers do dumb things … They do not think things out. This was a stupid thing they did and should get jail time but what they got … come on. Should they lose their future for one very stupid decision. I would have a totally different view if that home owner was killed …. or if they shot and accidentally killed their friend during this crime …. but they didn’t. It’s a burglary gone very wrong …. They should get 5 … I can even see 10 years …. but 25 to 45

  • Thanks for your support. For more information you are welcome to check out the Elkhart 4 Facebook Page.

  • While I have compassion for these teens and the length of the sentence, I don’t really see a “win” here. What are the supporters going to do if their appeals judgement is for example this. —– a Judge decides to drop the Felony murder charge but finds them guilty of burglary & keeps their sentence at 45 plus years. Not trying to be mean as I think their sentences are too harsh but things like my example can happen in our justice dept unfortunately. Will you then want to abolish Burglary laws or will you take it all the way to Washington & try still to get their time reduced?? I just find it difficult to believe that a court will overturn such a “distinct” sentence both in charges & length of time. My concern is that these young men have a sense of “how dare they?” In regard to the law when in all honesty they chose to enter someone elses home to steal along with an adult who died because of ALL their actions.

    • There is a belief and understanding in the support community and in the families that these boys did do wrong and there must be consequences. In our opinion there are two areas that the appeals should focus on. First is the issue of juvenile justice. Given the recent and ever expanding pool of knowledge into the differences between the adolescent and adult brain. We are not saying that teens are not accountable for their actions, but there is strong biological evidence that teens are more risk adverse and think more of the moment rather than long term consequences. This combined with charging these boys with the crime of murder, but taking out the idea of “intent” gives this case an interesting flavour. Ideally our hope for future appeals for Blake, Levi and Jose are that they will be referred back to the juvenile system where this should be dealt with. As for Anthony, who was over 18 at the time of the crime, we hope that a reasonable compromise can be accomplished. We agree 100% with Steve Drizen who wrote about this in The Huffington Post. We also agree with the US Supreme Court in its ruling Roper v. Simmons the justices said ” “the Court recognized that the majority of youth who commit crimes will not grow up to be lifetime offenders, and that even experts cannot differentiate between the offenders whose crimes are merely a function of their age and immaturity and those rare juvenile offenders whose crimes will persist throughout their life”.” We strongly believe that given the facts of this case these boys are exactly like the teens SCOTUS was discussing and they need a second chance. We hope that second chance comes through the Juvenile Justice system.

      The second area is the felony murder charge. Philosophically we do not believe in felony murder, but we are also realists and know that Indiana is not about to get rid of the felony murder rule. We think that if they approve felony murder here Indiana will be further expanding the rule. We know that they already did expand the rule and we explore that situation in one of our articles. We just believe that the facts of this case are very different and we hope these fact will cause a different opinion during the appeals. This case has the potential to decide if Indiana is with the majority of states that would not charge felony murder given these facts or if it is in the minority. It will be interesting. Thanks for your question.

  • This is a travesty of justice. Atotal miscarriage of justice. Yes they committed a burgarlry…yes they should be charged for thst. Not murder. They are juvenilles serving time with hardend crimminal adults. They should serve maybe 5 but 50 years???
    No thats wrong. Horrible. Hope they appeal and the justice system is fair….this is not fair justice. to hear a prosecuter say they have blood on their hands this is their fault sickens me. One of the boys wasnt even in the house.