New Castle News

Jordan Brown Case

April 17, 2012

Our Opinion: The case of Jordan Brown shows problems with law

NEW CASTLE —

After more than three years, the case of Jordan Brown has reached a conclusion.

At least in part. While a judge determined last week that this now-14-year-old boy was responsible for two Lawrence County homicides in 2009, this story is far from over.

From a legal standpoint, the courts still must determine what, specifically, to do with Jordan. A dispositional hearing must be conducted in the next few weeks to outline treatment and rehabilitation procedures for the teen. From there, he must be assessed on a regular basis to determine his progress and whether or not he should be released.

But under Pennsylvania law, he can be held as a juvenile no longer than age 21, despite the severity of the crimes involved.

This is a case that has caused great agony in Lawrence County since it was first reported in February 2009. Kenzie Houk, a young woman who was late into her pregnancy, was discovered fatally shot while lying in bed in the New Beaver borough home she and her two daughters shared with her fiancé and his son, Jordan.

In less than 24 hours, state police arrested Jordan — who was just 11 years old — for the crime. And under Pennsylvania law, the boy was charged as an adult with two counts of homicide.

From there, the saga of Jordan Brown took a series of disturbing twists and turns, as his attorneys fought to have him transferred to juvenile status. Eventually, they were successful. But Pennsylvania’s legal system took two and a half years just to come to that conclusion.

None of this is new to people who have followed this story, and we have commented on it before. There is something fundamentally wrong with Pennsylvania’s method of criminal justice when it takes three years to decide a boy’s fate in a case such as this.

That observation applies not only to Jordan and his family, but to Kenzie Houk’s survivors as well. In this instance, the law compounded a tragedy.

Here we are, more than three years later, and Jordan has been languishing in a detention facility. During this time, he has received no treatment, and no efforts to pursue rehabilitation have been made. That’s because in the eyes of the law, Jordan has been innocent all this time.

We don’t qualify as experts in the fields of child development and psychology. But common sense tells us the changes children undergo between the ages of 11 and 14 are profound. Any effort to rehabilitate Jordan is starting from a very deep hole that’s attributable to the three years that essentially were wasted.

Once more, we call upon the courts and the Legislature in Pennsylvania to see the horribly flawed process that surrounded Jordan’s case. If you want a textbook example of a travesty of justice, this is it.

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