The other night I watched a programme on ITV called ‘Kids Behind Bars’- in a US jail. You can see it here.
There were lots of shocking things in the programme- children being given sentences of up to 65 years, (some of them for admittedly horrible crimes, but it was still hard to watch when they had thrown their entire life away).
The strangest case, however, and the one which I can’t get out of my head, involves one of the people featured on the programme, Blake Layman.
I found his case one of the most incomprehensible and tragic stories I’ve ever heard.
Before I explain more, I want to make it clear that while my politics on most issues are left-wing or liberal, on crime I am quite a traditionalist. I think that the justice system should be geared around the needs of the victims rather than the perpetrators, I think that prison should be hard, I believe in the right of someone to defend their own property.
I’m also not a lawyer (though I often say that if I could be one thing in this recession, to really help people, I would be a lawyer doing lots of pro-bono work). Perhaps I’m missing a critical ingredient in this case or I don’t understand an aspect of the law.
Anyway, as I understand it, what happened in the case of Blake Layman, was this. Along with a group of friends, he decided to rob a person’s house. They selected a property where they believed no-one was home.
To their horror, they found that someone was indeed home- and he was understandably terrified at being robbed. He picked up his gun and killed one of the boys. Blake also got shot.
If I was told about this case I would have predicted two things would then have happened:
– The homeowner wouldn’t be charged, because it would be considered that he was defending his property. I imagine he would be more likely to be in trouble in the UK but that US gun culture would mean that his actions would be seen as more understandable.
– The boys involved in the robbery (no violence on their part) would have got a light sentence- (whether a short custodial sentence or not).
However, what actually happened was that there is a law in their particular state which essentially says that if a crime is committed, the guilt for anything that happens during the course of that crime is shared among all the participants.
Blake and the other three boys, were charged with MURDER. Blake got 55 years.
Let me repeat that again. They were charged and found guilty of murdering their own friend, during a non-violent burglary, where the person being burgled shot him.
You can read more about the case here. Or you can watch the ‘Dr Phil’ episode above.
I’m pleased that this case is currently still being fought. I wish there was something I could do. If you are a lawyer and there is any way you could lend your support, that would be amazing.
I just felt I needed to write this, such a sad story.