Teen who didn’t kill anyone faces 55 years in prison for felony murder

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From Freetheelkhart4.com

ELKHART, Ind. — A teenager who didn’t kill anyone, but was sentenced to 55 years in prison under the interesting felony murder law, is hoping the Indiana state Supreme Court will come to his aid when they hear his case Thursday.

According to The Guardian, Blake Layman was 16 when he and four friends broke into a neighbor’s home on Oct. 3, 2012.  Thinking nobody was home, Layman and his friends were surprised when the homeowner came out of his room with a gun. Seeing he was being burgled, the homeowner opened fire with his legally owned handgun.

Layman’s friend, 21-year-old Danzele Johnson, was killed by the homeowner. Layman himself was shot in the leg. Neither Layman nor his friends were armed.

But it was Layman, who had no criminal history and says he has never picked up a gun, who was charged with murder under the Indiana law for felony murder. The felony murder law mandates individuals who commit a felony that ends in death are charged with the murder, even if they were the victims, rather than the agents, of the killing.

Layman was found guilty in a trial and sentenced to 55 years in prison.

According to the Guardian, 46 states have some form of the felony murder rule.

Now, Layman’s appeal has reached the state supreme court. He and his lawyers argue that the felony murder law is not consistent, since neither he nor his friends were armed or fired a single shot and the death occurred at the hands of a third-party. Why should he be put in jail for decades?

To be clear, no one is arguing the killing wasn’t justified, the Guardian reports.

“In Blake’s case neither he nor any of his co-perpetrators killed anybody,” lawyer Joel Wieneke told the Guardian. “This was a justified killing by the person who was protecting his home.”

Angie Johnson, Layman’s mother, argues that stealing and killing are different things, and her son doesn’t deserve such a lengthy sentence behind bars.

“My son doesn’t deserve that,” Layman’s mother told the Guardian.

Layman himself apologizes for his decisions.

“I know I did wrong,” he said. “I know I committed a crime… I made a bad choice and I gladly take responsibility for it.”

But he maintains his innocence in the face of the murder charge.

“I’m not a killer,” he said.

For more on this story, click here.

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31 comments

    • Andy Colton

      I would agree that 55 years seems excessive for a then 16 year old kid however,these “kids” broke into a mans HOME with the intent to steal his possessions . These “kids” and all others considering this type of crime need to understand that doing this type of crime has its consequences. It is not “just stealing”. Citizens of this country ought to feel secure that their home is a safe place.

      • Tchad

        And people speed all the time too! They should add that in there. If you’re speeding on a highway where there has been a fatal crash ever, you should get 55 years in jail. People need to feel safe on the highways.

  • brandon

    So we are a place where we completely forget the law because he is a minor? Follow what the law says, is my opinion, and yes I do have a son and if he was dumb enough to try to rob someone and his friend got killed I would still say the law is the law.

  • tony2cool

    The law is in place due ti the reason that on a technicality he commited murder. If they would not have broke into the house in the first place, no one would have gotten shot. Therefore, the death of his friend is on him and his friends.

  • Disgusted

    This little effer is in no way shape or form either a victim or innocent. He should be found guilty. However, having said that I don’t know that he should receive a 55 year sentence. But let it be a lessen to all those other pos criminals. Stay the buck out of my house or I will shoot your ass. I have been robbed too many times by these useless humans. They should not be let go without penalty!

  • Think about it i dare you

    contrary to popular belief not every one knows about these side bar laws and if they did i bet it would negate some of the crimes like these from happening

  • Angeline McGraw

    Anyone who thinks this kid deserves 55 years for breaking an entering, is whacked in the head, and completely irrational. He didn’t pull the trigger and he did not “force or make that decision” for his friend who happened to be much older. . Most teenagers make stupid mistakes. Yes he should have reasonable and fair consequences for his crime but not to rot in prison. He will most likely never marry or have children, or experience a normal full life. This is completely insane. http://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=1&ContentID=3051

  • Josh

    Listen… If/When you agree to commit a crime – whether it was your idea or not, you are making a choice to accept responsibility for WHATEVER happens during the act. 9 times out of 10, you’ll get away scott free. On this given day, someone in your party got killed and now you’ve got to deal with the consequences. There are no mitigating factors here. The law is the law and it’s written very clearly. You should’ve thought about all the possible outcomes before you agreed to break into someone else’s house to steal the things they worked so hard for… #NoSympathy

  • brian

    I don’t think he should be charged as a minor, when you’re 16 you know what you’re doing, but murder charges that’s ridiculous!!!!!

  • herryford

    Sooooo, a bunch of drug addict thugs broke into a hardworking ,law abiding citizen’s house to steal valuables in order to buy yet more drugs…..Citizen is minding his own business and he hears the house being broken into, sees thieves in his house , realizes that he is sorely outnumbered which naturally leads him to fear for his life so he does what any God fearing American would do, send the dug addict thugs to meet their maker. We are supposed to feel sorry for the criminals who sought to victimize a good honest law abiding citizen???? Remember, this man did not have this article to read from and gain background on who these people were or whether they had criminal backgrounds or not. Kuddos to the man for defending himself, and shame on anyone looking for us to feel sorry for these thugs.!

  • Caro

    He may not be innocent of all crimes, but he is innocent of murder. His friend made the choice to break into the house. To say a sixteen year old should be held responsible for the choices a 21-year old makes is absurd. He should be charged with breaking and entering–that is the crime he committed. Not murder. I’m not saying he was right to break in, but the fact remains that he didn’t kill anyone.

  • seriously wtheck

    GUILTY by association dumb dumb. So your mom was never smart enough to tall you about the guilty by association law. What an idiot.. First he is guilty, guilty of murdering his friend guilty of being a deplorable human, and most of all guilty for being a baby!!!

    He had every chance to stop it by saying man that’s crazy I wont go.. I’m sorry ignorance is on offense. Further I support the guilty by association law. If you make dumb choice live with them.. My cousin was charged with such an instance where he was charged with such a sentence. I go see him every month, he knows he did wrong he didn’t do anything except drive and get down with his friends to pick up some equipment or something. Things went bad for him and his friends. And he found himself in a situation had he just stayed home and hung out with us like we asked he’d be enjoying the fresh air but he is not. And we all knew even before that if you go with someone know what they are doing and their intentions if it sounds wrong it is stay home. Otherwise anything they do you are responsible for too.

    The Teenager was an idiot and he deserves what he gets and his mom should be held accountable to since she didn’t educate him on guilty by association!!!! Ohhh my child is special he doesn’t deserve it no he deserves it and more you stupid stupid women maybe if you did your job as a mom instead of leaving him like you probably did he wouldn’t had been sooo stupid like his MOM!!