UPDATE 3: Jordan Brown
BOY MURDER SUSPECT JORDAN BROWN MAY GET BREAK
from the article by Rick Wills – The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
The appellate court ruled that the trial court, in denying a petition to have the case transferred to juvenile court, violated Brown’s constitutional rights. At issue was whether Jordan Brown, 13, was forced to incriminate himself at a hearing to decertify his case as an adult homicide case.
“The trial court’s condition … coercively sought to grant (Brown) the possibility of juvenile transfer in return for (Brown’s) incriminating statements,” Superior Court Judge Cheryl Lynn Allen wrote for the court.
Lawyers representing Jordan hailed the decision.
“I am excited. I am happy with the results, and I am happy for Jordan and Jordan’s father,” said Brown’s lawyer, Dennis Elisco of New Castle. “In the bigger picture, this is an important decision statewide for juvenile justice. This is exactly what we wanted.”
Elisco said Chris Brown, Jordan’s father, drove to Erie to tell his son the news. Jordan Brown is being held at the Edmund L. Thomas Adolescent Detention Center in Erie.
The Superior Court ruling, filed Friday, does not decide whether Brown should be tried as a juvenile, said Nils Fredricksen, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, which is prosecuting the case.
“The ruling does not say this case must be tried in juvenile court. The matter needs to be tried according to state law. We will follow the court’s directive in this case,” he said.
Jordan is charged with the February 2009 shooting deaths of his father’s fiancee, Kenzie Marie Houk, 26, and her unborn son, Christopher. Police say Jordan placed a shotgun to the back of Houk’s head when she was lying in bed, shot her, and then left the house to catch his school bus.
If Jordan is convicted as an adult, he would face a mandatory life sentence. If his case is handled in the juvenile justice system, he would be free without any supervision at the age of 21.
“Jordan was being put in a Catch 22. He almost had to say ‘Yes, I did it’ to get into juvenile court,” said Marsha L. Levick, a lawyer with the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia, which also represents Jordan.
Jordan’s unusually young age has garnered national attention for the case, and Levick says the boy’s conviction would make him “the youngest juvenile across the globe to get a life sentence without parole.”
In January, Lawrence County Judge Dominick Motto ruled that Jordan should be tried as an adult because the juvenile system would not have time to rehabilitate him. Motto said Jordan has “significant personality problems” and refuses to take responsibility for his actions.
The defendant’s age has made the case challenging, Fredricksen said.
“We are talking about a young teenager accused of the deaths of two people,” he said. “But we need to follow the law. And the burden of proof is on the defense, not the commonwealth, to show that he should be tried as a juvenile.”
I understand why the appellate court kicked this decision back to the trial court. Requiring a defendant to admit his guilt in order to receive a more favorable ruling from the court is as bad a violation of one’s civil rights as I can think of. I thought all along this might happen, but I’m not a lawyer so I didn’t say anything. I also didn’t want to jinx the case.
In the end, I doubt it will change a thing. The reasons why the court appointed psychologist found that Jordan Brown should be tried as an adult haven’t really changed, and I doubt Judge Motto will reverse his original ruling because of this setback. As the Attorney General of Pennsylvania said, the burden of proof is still on the defense to show that Jordan’s trial belongs in juvenile court.
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