Felony murder case goes to jury

Prosecution and defense rest their case, give their closing statemnts in trial for three teens charged with felony murder.
Posted on Aug. 22, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on Aug. 22, 2013 at 7:31 p.m.

GOSHEN — The court awaits a verdict for Blake Layman, 17; Levi Sparks, 18; and Anthony Sharp, 19, the three teens facing felony murder charges for their involvement in a deadly burglary attempt Oct. 3, 2012, at 1919 Frances Ave.

Prosecuting and defense attorneys rested their cases, gave their closing arguments and handed the case to the jury Thursday evening shortly before 6 p.m.

Earlier in the day the jury heard from Rodney Scott, the homeowner who shot and killed Danzele Johnson, 21, during the attempted burglary.

After Rodney’s testimony, the prosecuting attorneys and the defense attorneys rested their case.

In his closing arguments, deputy prosecutor Peter Britton talked to the jury about the consequences the events of Oct. 3 brought on all the people involved in the incident.

“But for the acts of all five individuals, including the three defendants on trial, Danzele Johnson would be alive,” he said.

The defense attorneys talked to the jury about their clients’ ages and the fact that they did not expect to break into a home that was occupied.

Mark Doty, Layman’s attorney, said in his closing arguments that the felony murder charge was too harsh for teenagers who simply made a bad decision.

He also said that although the homeowner had the legal right to defend himself, he also made a series of decisions that led to the tragedy.


Blake Layman, 17; Levi Sparks, 18; and Anthony Sharp, 19, are charged with felony murder and face a sentence of up to 65 years in prison if convicted.

On Oct. 3, 2012, a group of five people attempted to burglarize a residence at 1919 Frances Ave. The homeowner shot and killed 21-year-old Danzele Johnson, one of the members of the group.

The fifth person of the group, Jose Quiroz, pleaded guilty to felony murder and was sentenced to 45 years in prison.

Layman is represented by Mark Doty, private counsel, of Elkhart; Sparks, by Vincent Campiti, private counsel, of South Bend; and Sharp, by Jeff Majerek, of the public defender’s office of Elkhart County.

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