Felony murder convictions overturned by Indiana Supreme Court for ‘Elkhart 4’

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Mug shots: Blake Layman (far left), Levi Sparks (center), Anthony Sharp (far right). Provided by: Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department.

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (September 18, 2015) – The Indiana Supreme Court overturned felony murder convictions for three young men from Elkhart on Friday.

According to our partners at the Indy Star, Levi Sparks, Blake Layman and Anthony Sharp are each serving 50 year sentences for the death of their friend, Danzele Johnson.

Sparks, Layman, Sharp, Johnson, and another friend named Jose Quiroz are accused of breaking into an Elkhart home in October 2012. During the burglary, the homeowner shot and killed Johnson in self-defense.

In September 2013, a jury convicted the four surviving teens of felony murder in the perpetration of a burglary.

According to the Indy Star, Indiana’s felony murder statute states that a person can be charged with murder if someone is killed while he or she is committing or attempting to commit another crime.

Sparks, Layman and Sharp appealed their convictions with the argument that the felony murder statute was incorrectly applied in this case.

The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld their conviction in September 2014, but ruled that their sentences were inappropriate.

The Indiana Supreme Court’s decision to overturn their convictions came less than a year after it went before the Indiana Court of Appeals.

Indiana Supreme Court justices ruled that the young men are still guilty of felony burglary, which has a max sentence of 20 years.

Quiroz did not appeal the felony murder conviction, and he is currently serving a 45-year sentence.

The story will be updated when the court rules on each of the teens’ new sentences.

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