In September of this year Blake and the other teens were convicted. Two received 55 years in prison and one received 50 years. We have started a petition to end felony murder in Indiana as it is an unjust and unfair law that destroys lives. Please lend your voice to our cause by clicking here to go to the new petition.
Four teenagers face felony murder charges but they did not commit murder, nor did they fire the weapon that resulted in the death of a peer. Yet despite this, these teenagers are facing serious consequences that will only serve to make what is already a tragedy into something far worse...
On October 3rd police contend that five teenagers broke into the residence of Rodney Scott, operating under the belief that he was not home. When Scott heard noises he armed himself with a gun, called 911, and confronted the teenagers. He fired shots at them. In response, the teens attempted to escape from the home, including one who jumped through a window to avoid being shot. Scott injured one teen and killed the oldest member of the group – 21-year-old Danzele Johnson.
As a result of this incident, the prosecutor of Elkhart County, Curtis Hill, is holding all of the surviving teens responsible for felony murder. Felony murder is treated exactly as first degree premeditated murder except there is no requirement for the prosecution to prove the person charged had any intention of committing murder.
The problem here is that these teenagers did not commit murder. Their friend was killed as a result of the alleged break in, but these teenagers are being held accountable for this death as though they planned it and committed it themselves. The consequences for this could be as harsh as life without any possibility of parole.
This is not justice.
As the family of 16-year-old Blake Layman, who is facing the charge of felony murder and was himself wounded by one of the gunshots, we are asking that some common sense and reason be applied in this situation. Blake has no criminal record. He and the other teenagers involved are not throwaway children. They did not commit a murder. They should not be facing a charge of murder. The only message this sends is that communities place no value on children and teenagers and are completely unwilling to impose appropriate consequences for mistakes that are made. Exposing these teenagers to life sentences, as adults (which they are not), is not the answer. The adult prison system is not equipped to rehabilitate and this is proven based on many studies, conducted over many years.
We, the undersigned, are asking that Prosecutor Hill reconsider his stance on this case and drop the charge of felony murder. Felony murder is an outdated, archaic, and unconstitutional law. A number of states have abolished it completely for these very reasons. Read more about the felony murder rule and its devastating consequences here.
These teenagers deserve a second chance and felony murder is NOT the appropriate charge.