Teens appeal convictions in death of accomplice

(WISH Photo, file)

ELKHART, Ind. (AP) — Three Elkhart teenagers sentenced to decades in prison for the 2012 shooting death of a friend during an attempted break-in have asked the Indiana Supreme Court to review their convictions.

A jury in 2013 convicted Blake Layman, 17, Anthony Sharp, 19, and Levi Sparks, 18, of felony murder in connection with the death of Danzelle Johnson, 21. A fourth teen, Jose Quiroz, pleaded guilty.

A judge sentenced Layman and Sharp to 55 years in prison and Sparks to 50 years.

Many in the community have argued that the sentences were too harsh and that they were committing a nonviolent crime that turned tragic, the South Bend Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/1yb4mUH ).

Authorities say the four teenagers and Johnson were trying to burglarize an Elkhart home in 2012 when homeowner Rodney Scott, who had been awakened by noise from the intruders, discovered them and opened fire. Johnson was killed, and Layman suffered a leg wound.

The teens appealed their convictions to the Indiana Court of Appeals, which in September upheld the convictions but ruled the sentences were too harsh. The court ordered 10 years shaved off the sentences for Layman and Spark and five years removed from Sharp’s.

The trio filed motions last week asking the high court to take the case.

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