Jordan Brown case
The Jordan Brown case involves Jordan Brown (born August 7, 1997), who at age 11 was initially charged as an adult in the fatal shooting of his father's fiancée, Kenzie Marie Houk, 26, in Wampum, Pennsylvania, on February 20, 2009. The county District Attorney's Office initially filed the charges in adult court because that is required in Pennsylvania homicide cases regardless of a defendant's age. The Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office subsequently took over prosecution of the case. After Brown spent more than three years in a juvenile detention facility in Erie, Pennsylvania, while Pennsylvania courts deliberated his status, Brown was tried as a juvenile and adjudicated delinquent (guilty) on April 13, 2012. On May 8, 2013, Superior Court vacated the finding of delinquency, citing "palpable abuse of discretion".
Houk was eight months pregnant when she was shot in the back of the head while she was sleeping in bed in their western Pennsylvania farmhouse. Both she and her unborn infant son died as a result of the attack. Houk's 4-year-old daughter alerted nearby tree cutters roughly 45 minutes after Jordan Brown and Houk's 7-year-old daughter got on a school bus. The state Attorney General prosecutor asserted that Houk was killed by a youth-model 20-gauge shotgun, a Christmas gift to Jordan from his father. Pennsylvania State Police found a spent shotgun shell near the path Brown walked with Houk's older daughter to get to their school bus.
The human-rights organization Amnesty International opposed the effort to try Jordan as an adult, citing the mandatory life in prison with no chance of parole penalty as a violation of international law.
When Jordan's transfer to juvenile court was denied, justice Motto presumed Jordan is guilty and then declared his refusal to incriminate himself as evidence against the possibility of rehabilition. Furthermore, the case has dragged on for years, and all the while the boy remained incarcerated. A petition signed by nearly 4,000 people protested what it termed as denial of fifth amendment right as well as of the right to speedy trial.
Jordan Brown was initially charged as an adult. Judge Dominick Motto of the Lawrence County, Pennsylvania, Common Pleas Court initially denied transfer to juvenile court. After Pennsylvania's Superior Court ruled that Judge Motto violated Brown's Fifth Amendment, he reversed his earlier decision and ruled that Brown should be tried as a juvenile.
Then what became an issue was whether Brown's eventual adjudication hearing (juvenile court trial) should be opened to the public, and whether he should provisionally be released while a decision in that matter was pending. Lawrence County family court Judge John Hodge held that Brown's juvenile hearing would not be open to the public or to the news media. The Pennsylvania Superior Court rejected an appeal by three area newspapers (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and New Castle News) to overturn Hodge's ruling and open the hearing to the public. After those newspapers decided not to pursue their appeal further, Judge Hodge was directed by another panel of the Superior Court to move swiftly to hold an adjudication hearing. Judge Hodge ruled that Brown would not be released pending that hearing.
Following three days of testimony and legal argument, Judge Hodge issued his ruling on Friday April 13, 2012, that Brown was responsible for first degree murder in the death of 26-year-old Kenzie Houk and of homicide in the death of her unborn male child. Judge Hodge adjudicated the now-15-year-old Jordan Brown to be delinquent (the juvenile court equivalent of a guilty verdict). Judge Hodge will announce Brown's disposition (the equivalent of a juvenile sentence) at a later date. Under Pennsylvania law, an adjudicated juvenile offender cannot be held in custody past his 21st birthday. Brown can be held in a juvenile rehabilitative treatment facility only until August 2018, when he turns 21.
On May 8, 2013, Superior Court ruled that "the juvenile court committed a palpable abuse of discretion in rendering a ruling that is plainly contrary to the evidence" and vacated the juvenile court's disposition of delinquency. The ruling in particular objected to the assumption, made by the juvenile court, that no one else but Jordan could have shot Houk.
- "Judge declares Jordan Brown guilty of murder". Beaver County Times. April 13, 2012.
- "Authorities: Jordan Brown Killed Father's Pregnant Girlfriend; 11-Year-Old Charged As Adult". Huffington Post. January 27, 2011.
- "13-year-old US boy's murder trial could violate international law". Amnesty International. January 24, 2011.
- "Justice for 13 yr old Jordan Brown". Change.org.
- Boy accused in pregnant woman's death to be tried as a juvenile
- "Lawyer Of Boy Accused Of Murder Fights To Have Him Tried In Juvenile System". WPXI.com. January 25, 2011.
- "Court will hear Jordan Brown arguments at next session". Beaver County Times. January 15, 2011.
- Lidji, Eric (January 23, 2011). "13-year-old murder suspect faces US court appeal". Agence France-Presse (AFP).
- "Jordan Brown seeks release while awaiting court decision". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. January 20, 2012.
- "Media denied access to boy's juvenile case in '09 killing". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. February 23, 2012.
- "Judge: Pa. boy killed dad's pregnant fiancée at 11". Associated Press. April 13, 2012.