Reaction a day after Elkhart teens convicted of felony murder - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

Reaction a day after Elkhart teens convicted of felony murder


Some are calling it an over reach but the Prosecutor says people have to be held accountable for their actions.  Late Thursday night a jury convicted three teenage boys of felony murder.  After they broke into a home last year and the home owner shot and killed one of the teens.

Family and friends were screaming and sobbing Thursday night after the verdicts were read.  Friday they told FOX28 over the phone they're shocked the jury went with the harshest charge. They've maintained the charge was too harsh from the start.  Blake Layman's Godmother Summer Gary-Slack said, "I believe the felony murder law in this case is not appropriate."

It's something people in the community and even lawyers not associated with the case have struggled with, including Indiana Defense Attorney Ross Thomas.  "Certainly the example of these boys up there is a prime example of overreach in my opinion," said Thomas.

But Elkhart County Prosecutor Curtis Hill said someone has to be held accountable for the death.  "If you start a fire your responsible for all it burns, even if it burns you...and that's the basis of felony murder," said Hill.

The charge applies to someone who kills someone during a crime like burglary or arson.  But it also can be leveled when that crime leads to the death of any person.  "Someone has committed a felony and during the commission of a felony someone dies," said Hill.

One notable case involving felony murder is Palmer Vs. the State of Indiana.  Palmer was accused of helping someone escape from police custody.   Officers shot and killed the person trying to escape but Palmer was charged with the murder.    

Curtis Hill said, "felony murder is based on statutory law but there are case law interpretations that provide additional information on when it's appropriate."

When it's appropriate is still up for debate outside the courthouse walls.  Hill said, "they had a plan and the plan went wrong and as a result the death occurred.  The fact that the death occurred to one of their compadres does not negate the law."  While Thomas said, "to me murder ought to be murder.  It ought to be an intentional act...the traditional definition. "

Blake Layman's Godmother Friday told FOX28 that family members didn't want to go on camera...they're still in shock.  She said right now they're just trying to support each other.  They have talked to the boys and she said they're upset but they're staying strong.  She also said quote, "we're not giving up."

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