New Castle News

January 17, 2012

Jordan Brown Case: Attorneys seek teen’s release

Nancy Lowry
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Attorneys for Jordan Brown are asking that he be released from custody.

Dennis Elisco, Stephen Colafella of Monaca and the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia filed an appeal with the Pennsylvania Superior Court late last week after Lawrence County Judge John W. Hodge rejected their request.

The 14-year-old is charged with homicide following the Feb. 20, 2009, shooting death of his father’s pregnant fiancée, Kenzie Houk, 26.

Jordan, who was 11 at the time, has been in custody since he was arrested Feb. 21, 2009. He has been at the Edmund L. Thomas Adolescent Center in Erie since March 2, 2009.

Jordan was initially charged as an adult, but his case was transferred to juvenile court in August following a ruling by the Superior Court to reconsider the local court order.

If the Superior Court agrees to hear the newest appeal, it would be the third one considered by that court in a case that has yet to go to trial.

Jordan’s attorneys claim that continuing to detain the youth violates the state juvenile act. They ask that he be released pending his hearing.

They noted the law states that if a petition is filed alleging a child to be dependent or delinquent, the court must schedule a hearing within 10 days of the filing or release him from custody if the hearing is not conducted within 10 days.

The defense claims the clock began running when Jordan’s case was transferred to juvenile court Aug. 23. A hearing was scheduled for Sept. 2, but when the defense requested additional time, it was rescheduled to Sept. 27.

It is believed that at this hearing, Hodge would have considered evidence and determined if he is delinquent. Such a finding is equivalent to being found guilty in criminal court.

But before this hearing took place, Hodge ruled the public would be excluded. That procedure is generally followed within the juvenile system.

Hodge’s ruling resulted in three area newspapers, including the New Castle News, appealing to the local court then to the Pennsylvania Superior Court. Arguments by the newspapers, defense and prosecution were heard Jan. 10 in Pittsburgh. The court has not yet ruled on that issue.

Hodge also ruled the intervention of the Superior Court removed jurisdiction from him and all proceedings are stayed until a ruling is made by the appeals court.

So he denied the petition to release Jordan.

Jordan’s attorneys claim the stay ordered by the appeals court is a separate matter and continuing to keep Jordan in custody amounts to an illegal detention.

They are asking the Superior Court to order either his immediate release or a detention hearing to consider Jordan’s release while the media appeals are pending.

No date has yet been set for when the Superior Court will hear that appeal.