New Castle News
NEW CASTLE —
Judge John Hodge next week will consider an appeal to release Jordan Brown pending his juvenile court hearing.
In a 12-page order issued yesterday by the Pennsylvania Superior Court, Hodge was directed to schedule a hearing by Thursday.
Jordan, 14, is charged with two counts of homicide following the shooting of his father’s pregnant fiancée, Kenzie Marie Houk, 26, on Feb. 20, 2009. She died in the farmhouse she shared with Jordan, his father, Chris Brown, and her two daughters.
Jordan was 11 at the time of the shooting. He has been in the Edmund L. Thomas Adolescent Center in Erie since March 2, 2009.
Originally charged as an adult, the case was transferred to juvenile court Aug. 23, 2011. In September, Hodge ordered proceedings closed to the public and news media. The judge, who will preside over juvenile court hearings to determine Jordan’s responsibility in the shooting, said closing hearings to the public is typical procedure of all juvenile cases.
Three newspapers, including The New Castle News, appealed this ruling to the Superior Court. The appeals court stayed proceedings pending the outcome.
Defense attorney Dennis Elisco petitioned Hodge to follow Juvenile Act proceedings that require an accused child to be released if a hearing is not held within 10 days.
In October, Hodge denied the defense petition for the boy’s immediate release. He contended that jurisdiction of the case was in the hands of the appeals court.
Elisco yesterday said he is encouraged by the appeals court order.
“If (Hodge) conducts the hearing and follows the juvenile law, I anticipate that he will order Jordan’s release,” he said, adding, “This is what I asked when I filed in October.”
The three-judge panel of Christine L. Donohue, Anne E. Lazarus and Paula Fransisco Ott yesterday remanded the case back to Lawrence County court.
The judges said Hodge erred when he said he lacked jurisdiction to rule. The court stayed only Jordan’s adjudicatory hearing pending resolution of the media’s appeal, they said. His petition seeking release pending the hearing, “was a matter separate and apart from the hearing itself, the stay order and appeal.”
They concluded that Hodge should have had a hearing on Jordan’s petition.
At a hearing Wednesday, Elisco told the judges, “nothing has changed since the disposition of the media’s appeal and there has never been a detention hearing” in the case.
The judges said the appeal became moot following the Feb. 22 resolution of the media’s appeal.
JUVENILE ACT INFLUENCE
The judges said the Juvenile Act aims to “provide supervision, care and rehabilitation” for children committing delinquent acts as well as protect the community. It also strives to create a “family environment whenever possible, separating the child from parents only when necessary for his welfare, safety or health or in the interests of public safety.
“In the normal course of events,” they said, “a juvenile who has not had a hearing is released to the custody of a responsible party, usually his parents.”
However, they add, a juvenile may be detained for other reasons. These include no suitable home environment, or if he needs protective custody, psychiatric help, psychological testing and evaluation.
The court also said Jordan’s attorneys could have received more expeditious action by the court had they filed the petition to be heard by a motions panel of single judge.