Jordan Brown case

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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 New Beaver, 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". Jordan was supposed to have a life sentence without parole because of the incident but instead faced a long time in the juvenile detention center because he was only 11.

Incident[edit]

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 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, an Easter 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.[1][2]

Controversy[edit]

The human-rights organization Amnesty International opposed the effort to try Jordan as an adult, citing the mandatory life in prison without the possibility of parole penalty as a violation of international law.[3]

A petition signed by nearly 4,000 people protested what it termed as denial of Brown's fifth and sixth amendment rights.

The suspect's father has not publicly discussed the case. On weekends Jordan hunted alongside his father, Chris Brown, who purchased the youth-sized 20-gauge shotgun state police believe was the murder weapon.

Legal proceedings[edit]

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.[4]

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.[5][6][7][8] 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.[9] 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).[10] 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.

After his arrest, Jordan was placed in the Lawrence Country Jail, a facility for adults. But authorities transferred him to a juvenile center in March after his attorneys argued that the adult jail couldn't accommodate an 11-year-old.

On June 13, 2016, Jordan Brown was released from juvenile custody. He will remain on juvenile court probation until he turns 21. His lawyers continue to file appeals in order to have his conviction overturned.

Possible retrial[edit]

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.

References[edit]