4 Teens Sentenced to Decades in Prison for Murdering Their Friend Who Was Killed by Somebody Else

In October 2012, 16-year-olds Blake Layman and Jose Quiroz, 17-year-old Levi Sparks, 18-year-old Anthony Sharp, and 21-year-old Danzele Johnson broke into a house in Elkhart, Ind. The five were not armed and thought the house was vacant. Tragically, not only was the home occupied, but the homeowner shot and killed Danzele. Though not his killer, the four surviving teens were charged with Danzele's murder.

Last month, three of the teens were convicted of murder and sentenced to harsh prison terms. Blake Layman, who suffered a gunshot wound himself, was sentenced to 55 years in prison, as was Anthony Sharp. Because Levi Sparks never even entered the house, he received a slightly shorter sentence, but will still be in prison for half a century. The fourth teen, Jose Quiroz, pleaded guilty to the charges in order to receive a "reduced" sentence of 45 years. 

Read the rest of this article at The Huffington Post.

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  • ||

    Some states, including Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, and Washington provide a defense to felony murder charges if the defendant [...] was not the killer, was not armed, and had no reason to believe an accomplice was armed or planned to commit a potentially fatal act.

    Which makes eminent sense; it is unnecessary to go on about "the children".

  • R C Dean||

    I can go either way on this one.

    Is it foreseeable that if you break into someone's house, somebody could get greased? You bet your ass, and that is a risk that is assumed by the burglar. Classical felony murder.

    OTOH, this case shows that the classical rule can get harsh. Although the problem here is more with the brutal length of the sentences than anything else, in my mind.

  • robc||

    Its harsh, but Im not seeing much of a problem.

    As a judge I probably would have gone with a lighter sentence, but as long as there isnt any mandatory minimum stuff involved, Im okay with the judges discretion.

  • ||

    I don't see why they should be charged with murder when they didn't kill anyone. That someone reacted to their actions and killed one of them does not make the survivors criminally responsible for the death of the dead guy.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    The way things should be in this case:

    No one gets charged with murder. The remaining kids get charged with the same things (B&E, etc) they would have if no one died.

  • BakedPenguin||

    This. I could see manslaughter charges, since as RC pointed out, someone dying wasn't out of the question. The sentences look like murder 2 sentences.

  • prolefeed||

    I can't even see manslaughter charges. This is asinine statist "logic". These kids didn't pull the trigger, they bore no moral responsibility whatsoever for the actions of the homeowner. If I was on the jury, I would have gone for jury nullification for everything but the B&E, which they DID commit.

  • Bryan C||

    The people who broke into the home bear moral responsibility for breaking into the home. The death of one of their group was the clear result of their collective decision to expose themselves to the possible consequences of breaking-and-entering.

    Let's say they'd decided to set the house on fire instead, and one of them was burned to death by the flames. Would the survivors be morally and legally responsible for that death? I think they would be. This seems the same to me.

  • SomeGuy||

    but THEY would have started the fire...it would be the same if they broke in and shot at the home owner but missed and hit their friend.

    I still think murder is stupid and B&E is the right charge. Now if they forced the kid that got shot into the house then they would be responsible but as far as we know they didn't

  • Jordan||

    This is why judge's and juries should have discretion (nullification ftw). Sometimes a just law results in unjust punishment. But we (in theory) have the tools to remedy such a situation.

  • Jordan||

    judges

  • Rrabbit||

    I can see murder charges if one of them caused the death of somebody else in the home.

    If one of them dies, either by accident or because the home owner acted in self defense, then I don't think the surviving wannabe burglars should be charged with the death (as long as they did not directly contribute to it).

  • Alice Bowie||

    "The five were not armed and thought the house was vacant."

    You see, if they had guns, they could have defended themselves.

    These are tresspassers and/or burglars. As liberal as I am, I feel that its OK for people to have firearms in their homes. And, they can shoot and kill people that break into their homes. I don't see the tragety here.

    Perhaps 45years for burglary, Life for Rape/Murder/Armed Robbery is appropriate and would deter crime. Free all the non violent offenders. Make a lot of room. and incacarate violent criminals.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    You see, if they had guns, they could have defended themselves.

    That's not the point at all. If their entire group didn't have any guns, it's pretty stupid to charge them with shooting someone.

    As liberal as I am, I feel that its OK for people to have firearms in their homes. And, they can shoot and kill people that break into their homes. I don't see the tragety here.

    The tragedy this article is highlighting isn't the kid's death, isn't that his friends are going to spend essentially the rest of their lives in jail for killing him, when they didn't. That doesn't necessarily imply that the homeowner should be in jail for it, or that the kids shouldn't be punished for the crime they actually did commit (breaking and entering).

  • Voros McCracken||

    To me the more simple answer is that you should only be charged for felony murder if the deceased was someone who was not a willing participant in the dangerous act.

    Yes breaking into a house is dangerous and violence is a foreseeable consequence. But the deceased presumably understood this as well as the other four and chose to do it anyway. It would be like a two man stunt team where they try a dangerous stunt and one of them dies, and then you charge the other one with murder.

  • Swiss Servator, Kneel to Zug!||

    Voros,

    Interesting... I am not sure I have seen a good, succinct proposal for such an "assumed risk" defense to felony murder. Were I an academic, I think I could turn that into a top notch Law Review article.

  • amelia||

    This seems obvious to me. I am stunned by the case and having a hard time understanding how it ever got so far. I would've had a nervous breakdown from if I'd been on that jury. My body couldn't contain that much anger.

  • Contrarian P||

    An excellent point, Voros. The felony murder statutes likely were written with the assumption the victims of the original crime or bystanders would be the ones killed, not those involved in its commission.

  • SomeGuy||

    i would hope this but i have little faith in the people who write laws today....it could go either way -_-

  • Dweebston||

    The plight of the "Elkhart Four", as the teens are now known, is a consequence of Indiana's felony murder statute, a law that allows participants in certain felonies -- in this case burglary -- to be convicted of murder if anyone is killed during the felony. Prosecutors need to prove only that the defendant intended to commit the underlying felony, not that the defendant killed or intended to kill the victim. Most states have adopted some version of this felony murder rule.

    I'm a little bit queasy about this. Its application here is obviously a miscarriage, but let's up the ante. Suppose the four had entered the residence and murdered the inhabitants; they're later apprehended and their complicity established, but no one cops to pulling the trigger. In fact, each points a finger at the other three. As I understand it, this law is meant to compel cooperation from codefendants, but if nobody came forward and no three made a plausible accusation of the fourth, would it be a miscarriage to convict all four of felony murder? (Ignoring for the moment conspiracy to commit.)

  • Dweebston||

    I ask because the role of the prosecutor is sussing out enough substantiating evidence to convict, but this law essentially allows conviction en masse without identifying the gunman. Assuming only one of the four five pulled the trigger in my scenario, four others went to prison for a crime they didn't commit. Not to say they shouldn't be punished, just that this seems like a case better suited to conspiracy charges or somesuch.

  • pangloss90@gmail.com||

    In that scenario, you could simply charge all four for murder as codefendants and get guilty verdicts for straight-up murder on all four in a single trial. No need for conspiracy charges, indeed they might not even be applicable. "Who pulls the trigger" is of a lot less legal import than people seem to think. People get convicted of murder all the time for a killing they caused someone else to commit.

  • Francisco d Anconia||

    Though not his killer, the four surviving teens were charged with Danzele's murder.

    There was no murder. How can they be charged for murder?

  • sarcasmic||

    The way I read it, and I'm not a lawyer, is that if someone in a group is killed while a felony is being committed, everyone gets charged with murder.

    Kinda like if a firearm is present (but not necessarily used) while a felony is committed, it's an automatic twenty five years.

  • Francisco d Anconia||

    I'm no lawyer either, but, the way I understood it was if you're planning a bank heist andy you are the driver and the bag man kills someone, the driver can be charged with the murder.

    I think the intent of the law is being twisted here. There wasn't a murder, only some guy defending himself and his property.

    Suppose a group of teenagers decide to go swimming in a neighbor's pool (trespass)and two of them get into a fight where one is killed. Is everyone else there guilty of murder?

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    Well, no, because trespassing isn't a felony.

  • sarcasmic||

    Except for when the charge is, like, uh, I dunno, uh, felony trespassing or something.

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    Except for when the charge is, like, uh, I dunno, uh, felony trespassing or something.

    Fine, I will be more precise. In the facts Francisco presented, that trespass would most assuredly not be a felony. Felony trespass, in my experience, is limited to things like secure facilities (military bases, nuclear plants, etc).

    Regardless, in felony-murder, the predicate felony usually has to be violent in some way.

  • sgs||

    I notice all you did was double down and not answer the question.

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    What question?

  • sgs||

    Suppose a group of teenagers decide to go swimming in a neighbor's pool (trespass)and two of them get into a fight where one is killed. Is everyone else there guilty of murder?

  • sgs||

    You can read right?

  • sgs||

    I mean, I appreciate your useless speculation, but the initial question still stands, and nothing you said addresses it.

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    No, because trespassing isn't a felony. I clearly answered that question.

  • sgs||

    "No, because trespassing isn't a felony."

    " Felony trespass, in my experience, is limited to things like secure facilities (military bases, nuclear plants, etc)."

    No, you talked out of both sides of your idiot mouth per usual.

  • sgs||

    Shorter Asshole "TRESPASS ISN'T A FELONY EXCEPT WHEN IT IS!"

    The funny thing is that you know what is being asked of you, you're just too stubborn and wedded to appering correct to admit it.

    And as to "asnwering" the question, no, you rampanty specualted about things that were NOT felony tresspass.

    You most definitely did not answer the question, but almost certainly beleive you did.

    Which says eveything anyone need to know about you.

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    The funny thing is that you know what is being asked of you, you're just too stubborn and wedded to appering correct to admit it.

    What was asked of me is whether, under the set of circumstances Francisco outlined, whether those involved would be charged with murder. I answered "no". What are you missing?

  • sgs||

    "What was asked of me is whether, under the set of circumstances Francisco outlined, "

    Nope.

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    As I said in an expanded response, the set of facts Francisco sketched out would not constitute felony trespass. Moreover, even if it were, trespassing is not a violent felony, and the predicate felony for felony-murder usually must be violent in some way. In Indiana law, trespassing doesn't count per your link:

    arson, burglary, child molesting, consumer product tampering, criminal deviate conduct, kidnapping, rape, robbery, human trafficking, promotion of human trafficking, sexual trafficking of a minor, or carjacking;
  • sgs||

    It doesn't ammter asshole, in the same discussion thread you claimed first

    "Felony trespass, in my experience, is limited to things like secure facilities (military bases, nuclear plants, etc)."

    And then claimed

    "No, because trespassing isn't a felony."

    You already said in your experience it was, in cetain cases. So, you lied.

    You have zero credibility.

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    Whatever you say, Mr. Pleasant. I am sure I answered the question satisfactorily to those who were genuinely interested. You just want to play gotcha games, and you frankly don't matter enough to me to continue.

  • sgs||

    Then why are they still pointing out you're wrong?

  • sgs||

    You said

    "No, because trespassing isn't a felony."

    After you said

    "Felony trespass, in my experience, is limited to things like secure facilities (military bases, nuclear plants, etc)."

    One of those is a lie.

  • sgs||

    "You just want to play gotcha games"

    YES HOW DARE I USE WHAT YOU TYPED AGAINST YOU!!!!

    God damn you're tiresome.

  • SomeGuy||

    i am no fan of koch but sgs you are completely trolling...even my dumbass could keep up with him -_-

  • Francisco d Anconia||

    Well, no, because trespassing isn't a felony.

    Okay point taken. Say the kids are going to rob the house and the cops show up and shoot one. Murder charges for the rest?

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    Okay point taken. Say the kids are going to rob the house and the cops show up and shoot one. Murder charges for the rest?

    Yes.

  • Francisco d Anconia||

    What if one of them decides to commit suicide while in the house?

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    It would depend on if the felony was the proximate cause for the suicide, but suicide is usually considered an independent intervening act; that is, the suicitant (?) is presumed to have made that choice of his own free will without that choice coming from an external cause.

  • sgs||

    Again you dodge.

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    I'm not dodging. I straightforwardly answered the question. what did you miss?

  • sgs||

    "It would depend "

    " usually"

    "presumed"

    " I straightforwardly answered the question."

    I bet you actually believe that too.

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    If you don't like the answer, prove me wrong. I answered the question in the negative. If you don't like it, go do some research and come back later.

  • sgs||

    What part of pointing out that you were anything but clear speaks to the correctness of your argument troll?

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    Last time: He asked, I answered "no" while elucidating on some definitions and generalities. The answer was "no". The end.

  • sgs||

    What part of pointing out that you were anything but clear speaks to the correctness of your argument troll?

  • FreeToFear||

    He's not dodging, He's answering a point of law. He isn't even arguing the justice of the situation

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    I appreciate that, FreeToFear.

  • sgs||

    Hi Randian's sockpuppet!

  • Contrarian P||

    Didn't the decedent in this case act of his own free will when he entered the house? How is that different?

  • prolefeed||

    What if a group of kids is shoplifting a pack of bubble gum, and a cop pulls up and murders one of them in cold blood despite them offering no resistance whatsoever. OK by you to convict the kids of murder (we know the cop will at most get a slap on the wrist)?

    This notion that you can be held guilty for someone else's actions is asinine.

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    I never said whether something was OK by me or not. But based on the facts presented, (a) shoplifting is not a felony; it's petty theft, which is a misdemeanor and (b) I am not sure if you're claiming the shoplifting caused the chain of events that led to the murder, but it doesn't appear to me that it did. So, no I would not be OK with convicting them of murder because your facts don't support the charge.

  • sgs||

    " (a) shoplifting is not a felony; it's petty theft, "

    You're a lying idiot, this is totally dependant on how much is taken.

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    Filtered.

  • sgs||

    "Filtered."

    I win.

  • sarcasmic||

    "Filtered."

    I win.

    I consider it a badge of honor to be on Randian's iggy list.

  • Randian filtered me, I WIN!||

    I hope it's obvious that I do as well.

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    You're not that lucky, sarc.

  • sarcasmic||

    Dang. *hangs head in shame*

  • SomeGuy||

    dude you are worse than tony....they took gum....what did that walk out with a pallet of it??? just stop trolling shit

  • Redmanfms||

    What if a group of kids is shoplifting a pack of bubble gum, and a cop pulls up and murders one of them in cold blood despite them offering no resistance whatsoever. OK by you to convict the kids of murder (we know the cop will at most get a slap on the wrist)?

    Dear God, those goalpost moved so fast you must have attached jets to them.

    This notion that you can be held guilty for someone else's actions is asinine.

    So is felony murder the new thing all the true scotsman must hate?

  • sgs||

    Can't it just be a decent idea, poorly implemented?

  • Bryan C||

    But they're being held guilty for their own actions. They chose to break into a home. They chose to expose each other to the risk of breaking into a home. They got one of their group killed by bringing him along to break into a home.

    Who else did these things, if not them?

    Here's a counterexample. Your hateful ex-employee, Bob, decides to SWAT you. The cops sweep in, and in the course of events they shoot and kill your unsuspecting neighbor. Is Hateful Bob in any way guilty of the neighbor's shooting? Remember, Hateful Bob has no gun.

  • Contrarian P||

    No, the dead person chose to go along. The others did not "bring him along". He chose to go. The others are not responsible for his decision.

    Your example is apples to oranges and leaves out important elements. First of all, if the neighbor was killed, it is the fault of the person who shot him. The person who shot him might be justified in doing so (although in your example it seems pretty unlikely). I don't give a damn if the police had a serial murderer and rapist cornered. If an innocent person is hit it is the fault of the person who shot the innocent for not checking the field before opening fire. The police do not get a pass because they were there for a good reason or a bad one. Furthermore, the only reason swatting is even a going concern is because the police respond to everything as if it's 911 x 1000 (that's right...nine hundred and eleven thousand). So it's still the fault of the police.

    As for Bob, he is guilty of giving a false report to police and probably would have civil culpability, but no, he is not a murderer in your scenario.

  • Contrarian P||

    No, the dead person chose to go along. The others did not "bring him along". He chose to go. The others are not responsible for his decision.

    Your example is apples to oranges and leaves out important elements. First of all, if the neighbor was killed, it is the fault of the person who shot him. The person who shot him might be justified in doing so (although in your example it seems pretty unlikely). I don't give a damn if the police had a serial murderer and rapist cornered. If an innocent person is hit it is the fault of the person who shot the innocent for not checking the field before opening fire. The police do not get a pass because they were there for a good reason or a bad one. Furthermore, the only reason swatting is even a going concern is because the police respond to everything as if it's 911 x 1000 (that's right...nine hundred and eleven thousand). So it's still the fault of the police.

    As for Bob, he is guilty of giving a false report to police and probably would have civil culpability, but no, he is not a murderer in your scenario.

  • sarcasmic||

    Or if instead of a fight, one of them bumps his head and drowns? I don't know the answer, but it seems to me like something that is being misused. Like RICO.

  • FYTW||

    I am a lawyer, and the outcome here is a pretty straightforward application of the felony murder rule.
    The malice element for murder is imputed to all the participants in the underlying felony, even if they never intended the killing, on the logic that they set in motion the chain of events that resulted in the death.

    As to your hypothetical: probably not, since the felony murder rule generally applies only to "inherently-dangerous" felonies, and simple criminal trespass is unlikely to fall into that category.

  • SomeGuy||

    "The way I read it, and I'm not a lawyer, is that if someone in a group is killed while a felony is being committed, everyone gets charged with murder.

    Kinda like if a firearm is present (but not necessarily used) while a felony is committed, it's an automatic twenty five years."

    All of this is ignorant

  • robc||

    Under Indiana law, there was a murder.

  • sgs||

    No there wasn't, that's the point you're not smart enough to grasp.

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    Yes, he is smart enough to grasp it. The problem here is you.

    "Murder" is not a word people should use connotatively for "wrongful killing". "Murder" is defined in criminal law, which varies from state to state. In the State of Indiana, there was a "Murder" by the definitions contained within that State's legal code. You're the one with the problem here, not robc.

  • sgs||

    ""Murder" is defined in criminal law, which varies from state to state."

    http://www.in.gov/legislative/.....2/ch1.html

    Your preferred definiton of murder isnt in there.

    "You're the one with the problem here, not robc."

    Oh no, we've both got problems, his is his lack of understanding of what is happening, mine is that you continue to post stupidity and nonsense to people who poimnt ouy you ignorance.

  • sgs||

    *point out

  • sgs||

    And before you compose your snotty, childish reply, read the link.

    Youre wrong. So is he. Stop acting like an asshole about it like you do literally everything else you're challenged on.

  • sgs||

    I swear to god, your constant, incessant attempts to appear more intelligent than you actually are have transformed from mildly amusing to plain tiresome.

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    I like how I'm the one with the problem but you've posted six or seven overtly hostile posts in a matter of seconds.

    Anyway, clearly Indiana uses the proximate cause rule as I discussed above, which is, essentially, that if your intent to do a felony results in a death, even if that death is at the hands of a bystander or law enforcement, that's considered felony murder, and your intent to do commit that act carries through to the murder.

  • sgs||

    "but you've posted six or seven overtly hostile posts in a matter of seconds."

    You're an asshole who trolls us.

    You get what you earned.

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    If that's how you want to act, please by all means, proceed.

  • sgs||

    Why? I already irrefutably demomsntrated that you're wrong. The only thing left is to grind it in, and I have better things to do.

  • sgs||

    "Anyway, clearly Indiana uses the proximate cause rule as I discussed above,"

    I gave you the law, and you continue to insist on speculating.

    That, again, says much about you.

  • sgs||

    "In the State of Indiana, there was a "Murder" by the definitions contained within that State's legal code."

    I demomstrated you were incorrect about this with evidence.

    You respond to evidence with "clearly blah blah blah".

    Yes, you're THAT guy.

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    Maybe you should run over to the Indiana Supreme Court and set these kids free. You obviously know the law better than the Indiana Court System. Go get 'em, Clarence Darrow. We'll be here when you get back.

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    Like I said, Indiana must use the 'proximate cause' rule in felony murder cases. I don't see how what I posted is that hard to grasp, and it isn't speculation, unless you're claiming the Indiana trial court made an obvious error of law.

  • sgs||

    "Like I said,"

    Like I LINKED, you're wrong.

    And I won, you ran away.

  • Contrarian P||

    Here's the specific law in question. The relevant statute is 35-42-1-1 (easily found if you google indiana felony murder statute).

    "A person who kills another human being while committing or attempting to commit arson, burglary, child molesting, consumer product tampering, criminal deviate conduct, kidnapping, rape, robbery, human trafficking, promotion of human trafficking, sexual trafficking of a minor or carjacking...shall be charged with murder"

    Note that it specifies that in order to be charged one must kill another human being. "A person who kills" implies that the person must have directly acted to cause the death of another, not that they must merely have been present while the death took place.

  • Zombie Jimbo||

    I am a bit apprehensive about the argument that the kids were unarmed. If the homeowner was unarmed, would the kids have harmed him/her, or just slunk away into the night. Even if they say they meant no harm, I don't buy it. Split the difference and make it 10 yrs.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    The sentences seem excessive (I thought it was *three* strikes and you're out?), but holding violent felons responsible for the forseeable consequences of their crimes strikes me as fair.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    They seemed excessive on first read. But the more I think about the group, it's reasoning, and the other possible outcomes, I'm fine with the sentences. Defective units, removed for repair.

  • Calidissident||

    It's still a ridiculous charge IMO. Unless they were forcing him to go along with it, they're not responsible for his death. Had the guy survived, should he have been charged with attempted murder of himself?

  • Contrarian P||

    Please explain how under any reasonable standard someone should be convicted of murder when they did not in any way assist in killing the decedent.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    It's a proximate cause type thing. I'm not a lawyer, so I'm not going to argue law with you. I'm a dude in his apartment who read an article and thought, "Those guys made a bad decision, their buddy got killed. They go to prison. The homeowner was not hurt. The system worked."

    Maybe 50 years is excessive. So how about 20 years, instead?

  • Contrarian P||

    I'm not a lawyer either, nor do I think one needs a specialized knowledge of law to be able to ask how it is morally correct to charge someone with murder who did not actually intend to commit murder nor did they in any way physically harm another person. I believe in prosecuting people for crimes they actually committed and intended to commit. In this case, the guy who got killed made the choice of his own free will to go into the house. He wasn't coerced into going by any of the others. The homeowner heard movement in his downstairs and opened fire, completely understandably. The decedent made the choice to put himself in harm's way. The homeowner made the choice to shoot him, and justifiably so. What isn't justifiable is holding the others responsible for the death of someone who was willingly committing the crime. If the homeowner had missed, I doubt anyone would be calling for an attempted murder charge, which they should be if you apply the same logic.

    By the way, not charging the defendants with murder does not mean they go home. They would have other criminal charges pending and would serve jail time. The system would still work.

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    Whether the victim was also a perpetrator shouldn't be relevant, I think.

  • KB Check Release||

    Neolib this is where you are wrong.

    The kid that died was not a victim. He was killed by the homeowner defending their own property.

    I understand the Indiana proximity clause but I really think it is garbage. It doesn't stand up to consistent logic.

    If Trayvon wasn't a victim, I don't think the kid who died while trespassing was a victim here too.

    Contrarian nailed this on the head in my opinion. The surviving trespassers still go down for B and E. That is all they did wrong.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Read the rest of this article at The Huffington Post.

    Hahahahahahahaha, no.

  • Dweebston||

    It's surprisingly even-handed, and the comments are less kneejerk derpy than usual. A considerable number of the first few dozen support the conviction if not the sentencing.

  • BoxyBoxyBoxyBoxy||

  • pan fried wylie||

    This law only makes sense if a party to the felony did the shooting.

    Let's say the house was unoccupied. The teens start hanging out, and a neighbor calls the police for a noise disturbance, or, knowing the house is vacant calls in about trespassing. The cops arrive and shoot one or more of the teens.

    BAM, murder charges for the survivors, right?

    Hell, with 3 felonies a day, cop shootings could routinely be handled in this fashion.

  • Francisco d Anconia||

    This^

  • Redmanfms||

    This is hardly unprecedented. The only crime in my town resulting in a death in the last 20 years was a bank robbery in which the police killed the "robber" after he fired a couple shots at them on his way to the getaway car and the driver was charged, and convicted for felony murder. This happened in the '90s

    Here is the relevant statute:

    § 18.2-33. Felony homicide defined; punishment.

    The killing of one accidentally, contrary to the intention of the parties, while in the prosecution of some felonious act other than those specified in §§ 18.2-31 and 18.2-32, is murder of the second degree and is punishable by confinement in a state correctional facility for not less than five years nor more than forty years.

    Don't know about Indiana, but felony murder is pretty well established here, though I don't believe breaking or trespass are considered felonious acts anywhere.

  • Randian filtered me, I WIN!||

    "I don't believe breaking or trespass are considered felonious acts anywhere."

    You're mistaken.

  • Redmanfms||

    You're mistaken.

    Ok.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    It's a good thing none of the cops managed to kill themselves en route, or those boys would be on Death Row.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    This law only makes sense if a party to the felony did the shooting.

    That's pretty much my opinion.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Shouldn't there be a penalty for throwing away the lives of your companions (though criminals) for the sake of a burglary?

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Perhaps there should be a special statute for this, rather than trying to shoehorn the behavior into common-law categories.

  • Contrarian P||

    No, unless it can be shown that somehow the survivors coerced the decedent into going along in the commission of the crime with a reasonable expectation that the person was risking death by going. In this case, the decedent was the oldest and probably was the ringleader.

  • amelia||

    No.The deceased should be responsible for the consequences of his participation in the crime. I don't understand why there is any argument about this happening here.

  • nipplemancer||

    this is a really bizarre extension of the felony murder rule and IMHO, completely unjust. Charge them and convict them of the actual crime - B&E.

  • amelia||

    Yes.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Shouldn't there be a penalty for throwing away the lives of your companions (though criminals) for the sake of a burglary?

    Was the dead guy forced at gunpoint to participate?

  • Contrarian P||

    I'm trying to understand by what reasoning minors (as two of the three survivors were at the time) were prosecuted as adults for murder. I can understand charging a minor as an adult if they commit a serious felony with evidence that they planned the crime. I can't understand charging them as adults when they broke into a house thinking it was empty, carrying no weapons, with clearly no intent to physically harm anyone. Frankly, I can't see the logic in charging anyone with murder who cannot be shown to have intended harm to the decedent. Blake Layman, one of the three, was shot and I suppose that means the three should be charged with attempted murder as well. While certainly they should be charged for breaking into a home with intent to rob it, reckless endangerment, or other charges based on deeds they actually did, the only way they should be charged with murder is if they (two of them being minors) somehow forced the 21 year old in this scenario to enter the house and be shot.

  • Robert||

    What if the police had broken in and one of them got killed?

  • Alice Bowie||

    I agree with what happened to these kids.
    We are too lienient on Violent offenders.

    In NJ, for example, if someone dies during the commission of a felony involving the perp having an illegal firearm, the charge is 1st degree murder.

    Indiana has the similar law only it doesn't involve the firearm (since they have pretty loose gun laws anyway). I like the law. If you are breaking into someone's house, and someone dies, the perps are charged with felony murder even if the one that died was the perps' partner in crime.

  • Contrarian P||

    None of those convicted were violent offenders. It was never asserted that they engaged in any violence. The only violence in this scenario came from the homeowner and it was completely justified. Seriously, if you're going to assert something at least start by making sure it is applicable in the situation under discussion.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    I think breaking into someone's property is violence against the property owner. Obviously, so did the property owner.

  • Contrarian P||

    Violence implies the use of physical force with intent to harm. There was no physical force used by the defendants in this case unless you decide that damaging a door frame constitutes violence. I don't believe simple damage to property is considered criteria for violent crime by any law enforcement agency and it isn't logged that way in crime databases kept by the FBI.

    The property owner opened fire when he saw unknown persons moving around the downstairs of his house. At that point, he did not know their intent or whether they were armed and so was justified in proceeding under the worst case scenario which was that they were a threat to his life. He was held to that standard and so was not charged. Once all the facts were known following extensive investigation, however, it became clear that there was no intent whatsoever to physically harm the property owner, nor was any violence employed against him. In other words, it was a nonviolent crime.

  • Alice Bowie||

    "...it became clear that there was no intent whatsoever to physically harm the property owner..."

    You don't know that.

    Perhaps the ONE property owner could had been assaulted (or even killed) by the SIX innocent little kids that were just looking to check out the inside of his house so that can have design tips for their tree house.

  • Contrarian P||

    Please explain what grounds there are to show an intent to harm. The defendants did not carry any weapons with them and they all testified that they thought the house was empty. No force was employed against the owner, nor is there any evidence whatsoever that such was planned. The testimony of all individuals involved agreed as to the goals of the break in. If no violence was employed, it cannot be a violent crime.

    Your second paragraph is immaterial to the discussion and indeed was included as an emotional appeal. It does not matter what "could have" happened. What did happen was a nonviolent crime and there is no evidence to suggest otherwise.

  • OldMexican||

    Re:Contrarian P,

    Please explain what grounds there are to show an intent to harm.


    Burglarizing a home is not an act of love. The burglarizing itself IS a harmful act. Just because a person's body is not hurt does not mean he is not being hurt by having his property damaged, burglarized or vandalized.

  • Contrarian P||

    See my original statement that Hazel was attempting to argue: "it became clear that there was no intent whatsoever to physically harm the property owner.." Please note the phrase "physically harm". You are arguing against something that wasn't stated to begin with. That the harm being debated was physical was already established.

  • Alice Bowie||

    They didn't attack the owner because he was armed. Burglary is a violent act. Doesn't matter that they were not armed.

  • Contrarian P||

    "They didn't attack the owner because he was armed."

    You should have stopped with "they didn't attack the owner". That's the whole point. It doesn't matter if they didn't attack him because he was armed, because he looked scary, or because he looked cute with fuzzy bunny slippers. They didn't attack him. Not a violent crime. You are attempting to argue that these are violent offenders based on the fact that no violence happened. Doesn't make any sense.

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Contrarian P,

    Violence implies the use of physical force with intent to harm.


    Breaking into someone's home is not an act of love, so the intent to harm is implicit. Even if I am not physically harmed in my body, when someone breaks into MY property, *I* am harmed . It is MY property, not his.

  • Contrarian P||

    If someone picks up your wallet and steals your cash, you have been harmed, but I doubt anyone would call that a violent crime.

    There is no argument that harm wasn't intended when the defendants broke into the man's house. They intended to steal things, which would have harmed the owner emotionally and financially. They just didn't employ violence to do it, which is the point.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    It might sound a little Tulpical, but I don't have a problem with slapping home invaders with the felony murder rule if one of them bites it in the middle of their home invasion. Indiana follows the proximate cause rule concerning felony murder. I prefer to think of it as the "zone." Once anyone enters the zone of a felony initiated by you, and dies, you are liable for felony murder, regardless of whether or not you did the killing. Had you not initiated the felony to begin with, they would likely not be dead.

  • Redmanfms||

    I agree, but I think the sentences in this case are ridiculous.

  • Dweebston||

    I'm leery about anything that allows the State to duck the burden of evidence in prosecuting a crime. Allowing the prosecutor to charge the four survivors with accessory to murder despite all logic and evidence to the contrary does exactly that. Manslaughter? Well, maybe. Better minds than mine can come up with a raft of crimes with steep penalties, but I don't think murder should number among them.

  • Flemur||

    Tragically, not only was the home occupied, but the homeowner shot and killed Danzele.

    "Tragically" meaning "fortunately".

    Since burglars deserve to be shot and killed, only 4 more to go.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Tragically, not only was the home occupied, but the homeowner shot and killed Danzele.

    The only tragedy here is that any of these degenerates survived. That being said the murder charge makes no sense. B&E and 10 years would be fine.

  • Contrarian P||

    So in other words, all of them deserved to die, but since that didn't happen a ten year sentence is just peachy? I'm finding it difficult to imagine how you arrived at that equivalence.

  • Cytotoxic||

    There's no 'equivalence'. One is moral preference, the other is Objective Law.

  • Contrarian P||

    The way you expressed your opinion, it certainly came across that way.

  • Azathoth!!||

    By making this a 'murder' they're undermining the castle doctrine and justifiable homicide.

    There was no wrongful death.

  • Redmanfms||

    Uh... How?

  • amelia||

    Because the man who shot him had the right to do so, legally and morally. Jeebus.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    This thread just makes me shake my head and wonder what the hell is wrong with people. Normally, I only feel that way when I'm not reading H&R.

  • amelia||

    Me too. Just because felony murder laws exist doesn't mean they are just. You know, much like drug laws. The kid was party to the crime! Makes no sense at all. I don't even think it should warrant an involuntary manslaughter charge.

    Radley Balko has written numerous times about his disfavor of felony murder laws, BTW.

    http://www.theagitator.com/200.....der-folly/

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