The so-called 'Elkhart Four' were convicted under a little-used 'felony murder' law
The Indiana Supreme Court heard arguments on Thursday whether to hear a case involving three unarmed teenagers who were convicted of murder despite the fact that none of them actually killed anyone.
On Oct. 3, 2012, then-16-year-old Blake Layman broke into a neighbor’s house along with three other teenagers and 21-year-old Danzele Johnson. All of them believed the home was empty, but once inside, the homeowner, Rodney Scott, heard the teens and fired on them with a handgun, fatally hitting Johnson.
Layman and three other teens—now known as the Elkhart Four—were unarmed at the time, and it was the homeowner who in fact shot Johnson. But the would-be burglars were the ones charged with “felony murder,” which can be found in most states but is rarely used, and allows for murder charges for individuals who commit a felony that leads to a death. Three were convicted after trial, while one pled guilty to the charges.
The Indiana Supreme Court is now considering taking up the case. Last year, the Indiana Court of Appeals upheld the teenagers’ convictions but said that the sentences applied were too severe.