Appeals Update #5 — The Appeals Court Approves 2 Supportive Briefs

On Friday February 28, 2014 the Indiana Court of Appeals approved the inclusion of two amici curiaes (briefs submitted by friends of the court) supporting the appeals filed by Blake Layman and Levi Sparks for their 2013 felony murder convictions.  As we first reported earlier in the week several groups not directly associated with the ‘Elkhart 4’ have asked to file briefs in the appeals.

On Friday, in a unanimous decision, the justices hearing the appeal of Layman and Sparks approved the filing of briefs supporting the appeals of Blake Layman and Levi Sparks from the following organisations,

The Juvenile Law Center, The Center For Wrongful Convictions of Youth and The Children’s Law Center  have combined their expertise and are filing one amici curiae.

Court records indicate that each of these amici curiae are being filed in support of Blake and Levi.  They will be arguing against the way this case was handled in Elkhart County.  It is easy to guess that they will be relying on recent court decisions nation wide dealing with juvenile justice as well as recent scientific evidence differentiating the adolescent brain from the adult brain to support their submission to the court.

By filing these amici curiae some of the nations most prominent juvenile lawyers and legal scholars will be using their expertise and knowledge to defend Blake and Levi.

The State of Indiana is currently working on their brief responding to the amici curiae and the briefs filed by the lawyers for Blake Layman and Levi Sparks.

Court of Appeals Feb 28

A copy of the Court Record approving the 2 briefs.


  • Friendforjustice

    Thank God for those people and organisations in America that seem to have a conscience and are using it to help these boys and in the fight for juvenile justice. Unfortunately for the children and their families caught up in the criminal justice system these people (organisations) are few and far between. I note from recent events occurring in Europe that President Obama and the American Secretary of State Mr Kerry, are using phrases like ‘ don’t in the 21st century behave in a 19th century fashion’ or (not a direct quote) ‘ breaching international law’ or ‘going against the international community’. Seriously Mr Obama and Mr Kerry? Are you not aware (or interested) in your own country’s laws that allow for states dealing with children, to act like they were in the 19th century, breach international law and go against the UN and international community by treating children as adults? Putting them in adult court thereby ensuring the harshest of sentences, that even an adult would quake and crumble at. Putting convicted children in with adults, using solitary confinement/isolation/segregation all things that are in direct breach of international law and an affront to the international community. Please America stand up for your children and see their great (rehabilitative) potential, yes even those who have done wrong.

    • Thanks for your reply and unfortunately you are correct. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is one of the most important international documents. The goal of this document is to guarantee basic rights for all children worldwide ensuring they are free of exploitation, get an education and have a stable life. Article 37 of the convention states,

      Article 37 (Detention and punishment): No one is allowed to punish children in a cruel or harmful way. Children who break the law should not be treated cruelly. They should not be put in prison with adults, should be able to keep in contact with their families, and should not be sentenced to death or life imprisonment without possibility of release.

      The Convention of the Right of the Child was the most quickly ratified international human rights treaty every put forward. As of today two countries globally have not ratified this agreement. The USA is the only western country not to ratify the agreement and many believe it is because of Article 37. The other country is Somalia. It is a very unfortunate situation.

  • Friendforjustice

    Yes a very unfortunate situation and one with very real and dire consequences for those not afforded the protection of the treaty. However I feel that even without the treaty and other laws protecting children, common sense and just plain old human morals and decency should prevail when dealing with any child in the justice system. 55yrs for a child? I still can’t get my head around that and the unrestrained use of the felony murder charge were children are concerned. I fear for the moral fibre of America and it’s people, it’s being eroded; not through the crimes of ‘delinquents’ or ‘tiny tearaways’ but in their subsequent treatment by the courts/adults who should know better.
    If you are in touch with these boys and their families will you let them know that there are people in the international community watching and praying for a better and more just outcome.

  • I don’t understand how they were 1. tried for MURDER instead of manslaughter and 2. given 50 years?! I have seen cases of gruesome, bloody, premeditated murders where the convict is only sentenced to 20 years!!!?