The Elkhart 4: Should Teens Be Given 50-Year Prison Sentences?

Part 2: This Indiana case has sparked outrage and a re-examination of the nature of juvenile crime and punishment.
3:00 | 07/27/14

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Transcript for The Elkhart 4: Should Teens Be Given 50-Year Prison Sentences?
On one day, with one bad decision, the oivesf four teenagers in Elkhart, Indiana, were forever changed. Was it worth it? No, absolutely not. They knew they made a costly mistake, but no one could imagine the price. It hasn't hit me. Their friend is dead, and they are on trial for felony murder. What is your thought on how fair or not this charge is? We all should be charged for what we done that day, but nobody committed murder, so, why should we be charged with it? The trial lasts just four days and the verdict comes after just five hours of deliberation. The teenagers are found guilty of an adult crime. As a prosecutor, I did not want to send many young men to jail. But that very often is the only alternative. And here, you've got a dead body. It was a decision this juror did not make lightly. Age should have been a consideration in this one. You know, for the young kids, not even participate in the shooting and get convicted of it, that's the hard part to -- hard part to swallow. At the sentencing, the teenagers' loved ones react in horror as Levi is sentenced to 50 years in prison. Blake and Anthony sharp both get 55 years. When the verdict came down, what was your reaction? I was crushed, you know? I didn't kill anyone. And now for the rest of my life I'll be labeled a murderer. Their harsh sentences have drawn national attention. I think it's insane. I think it's overkill. And I think it's unjust and needs to be remedied. When I found out, it just totally crushed me. The moms are fighting for their remedy. Appeals have been filed to overturn what they say are unjust and cruel sentences. These kids aren't murderers. They don't deserve to do 55 years for something they didn't do. While their mothers are fighting on the outside, Blake and Levi are inside, waiting, hoping. Blake is in a juvenile unit. 209! This is your world, basically. Yeah. He keeps a small collection of photos. These are pictures from visits. That's my girlfriend and me, my mom, little sister, me and my girlfriend. To keep him focused on freedom, a calendar. I marked it to 2040, a little joke to miss. The soonest he could get out with good behavior. Unless the appeals can get him out earlier. These kids aren't in here for committing a traffic violation. Most of these kids are in here for serious crimes. They should be punished for those crimes. Blake still holds out hope that he'll be freed soon enough to make studying for his G.E.D. Pay off. He's always into it and he is always asking questions. Blake is about to turn 18 and will soon move over to the adult side of the prison. I want to make cake. You're going to make a cake? I'm going to take, like, honey buns and stuff like that and put some, make layers to make a layer cake. But the changers here are real and present. There's an incident on the adult side. Weapons team assemble. I hate hearing that. What is it? Somebody's hurt. When you hear that tone ring out, it's -- it gives you chills because it can be you any day. An omen of the dangers Blake could face in the future. Fearing for their son's safety behind bars is another motivator for their mothers, as they rally for an appeal. We want to keep the word out about these boys that are locked up and need our support. T-shirts and bracelets are sold with an every hopeful eye towards the future. We're raising money for all four boys and split it between the four of them. Blake's high school girlfriend refuses to walk away, and has enough hope in their future to say yes to a very important question. I actually went over to his grandma's house. She had a t-shirt for me for the boys and it was actually an engagement ring from Blake, which was really awesome. Yeah, I've had people ask me how I do it, or -- it's just -- I really don't know what to say. I love him and I'm not going to leave him when things get hard. Blake's legal team is ready for a hard fight, too. They went in without any weapons. They were hoping to find a house that was empty. They didn't have an intent to kill. They think the case could go all the way to the U.S. Supreme court. I think the argument of just a layperson is, well, those boys shouldn't have been committing burglary in the first place. Right. Yeah. We don't disagree with that. Our point of contention is how much punishment they should receive and what they should be punished for. They were guilty of a burglary and they should have been punished accordingly. I did commit a burglary. Serious things happened, and that's partly my fault. Danzel is gone. Where did it all go wrong? Oh, man. I couldn't -- I guess just the bad -- not being -- being a follower, not a leader, I think. Peer pressure was definitely at play here. A very teenage vulnerability. The juvenile brain continues to develop throughout adolescence, precisely in the areas that govern judgment, the exercise of reasoning. Weighing risks. Not everyone believes that's an acceptable excuse. Very often, as a prosecutor, I would see, especially teens, when they're in a group, they tend to do things they may not do on their own. Would you feel menaced if you woke up from a sound sleep and you came downstairs and found five men -- I think the answer is yes. However, the highest court in the land has already ruled that juveniles shouldn't face the death penalty, nor life without parole. Even tough on crime former prosecutors like Nancy grace say there were other options. Frankly, the sentence disturbs me. This case could easily have been pled down to a voluntary manslagter with a sentence of 15 years, and they would have done hard jail time, seven to ten years, and then still had a life to live. For Blake, life behind bars continues. He's now 18 and just last month, with no warning, he's told to pack up his things. He's moving to the adult side. I was asleep, and they come told me, pack your stuff up. They act like they're not scared. They act like they're Superman. But underlying, you can tell by the look in their eyes that they're a little intimidated. I wasn't afraid. I was just anxious. It's just an environment, get put into some crazy places. So, I'm worried about that, but I think I'll be all right. But while the walk from the juvenile housing unit over to the adult side may be short, it's miles away from the world he's known. And his new cell mate has a few words of advice for the new arrival. Meet a new people, don't meet too many people. His best friend Levi, who stayed back on the porch that day, is already on the adult side. Hanging out with the wrong crowd here will get you into a bad situation. What's the hardest part about being locked up. Being behind bars ain't nothing like being on the outside. This is the kind of thing we see every day. This. Depressing. Horrible. Show me your ink. All right. His time in prison now literally written on his skin. Tattoos he illicitly got while behind bars. The hour glass is broken, showing it's wasted time. That's your sentence, 50 years. Levi's cell mate is 40 years plus older than he and doing 65 years. I'm here for the duration. For now, their lives are still on hold. Freedom could still be years away. Unless their mothers' fight is successful. Today, they've made the five-hour drive to see their sons. I feel like if we're not visiting and showing them that we're out here still fighting that they're going to lose what hope and that faith. He doesn't know I'm coming, and this is what is even better about it. Excitement and emotions bubble up as they arrive, smiling as they walk through a gauntless of barbed wire. There's Blake. Hi, honey. Hello. I love you, mom. The rules dictate you can only hug at the beginning and end of each visit. The moms take every effort to make even the slightest contact with their son. It's always a reunion for Blake and Levi. The two friends haven't seen each other in months. Good to see him, good to see he's doing good. Been trying to send word to him, tell him that I say hey and I love him. Here, you get over on this side. There's time for a quick photograph. They're allowed one per visit. But before they know it, Blake and Levi have to return to the world behind locked doors. All right, bye-bye. See you in a couple weeks, okay? Though they can't undo what began on the porch that fateful day, the mothers continue to be mothers. We're going to fight with everything we have. As of tonight, Angie Johnson and April sparks are still waiting to hear if their sons appeals will be granted. Our thanks to kalamari productions for producing this story with us.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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