New Castle News

January 7, 2012

Jordan Brown Case: Parents of Kenzie Houk want media in proceedings

Nancy Lowry
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — The parents of the woman allegedly shot by her 11-year-old stepson-to-be want the news media to witness his court proceedings.

Jack and Debbie Houk of Shenango Township said they favor including the news media in future court proceedings involving Jordan Brown.

“We support the news media 100 percent,” Debbie Houk said. “They have been there since day one and without (the media) in the courtroom, no one will ever know what happened. I believe the people have a right to know.”

Jordan, now 14, is charged in the shooting death of his father’s pregnant fiancée, Kenzie Houk, 26, on Feb. 20, 2009.

On Tuesday, three newspapers, including the New Castle News, are expected to argue before the Pennsylvania Superior Court to open court proceedings.

Although Jordan was charged as an adult, after more than two years of legal wrangling Lawrence County President Judge Dominick Motto ruled the case would be moved to the juvenile system. Such proceedings typically are closed to the media. Judge John W. Hodge closed Jordan’s hearing in September, prompting the newspapers to appeal.

The Houks said questions regarding the evidence and the investigation surround the incident. They don’t want answers that may come to light in the courtroom cloaked in secrecy.

“At the preliminary hearing (the prosecution) was required only to offer enough to hold the charges — not everything they had,” Debbie Houk said, adding she wants the news media to hear all the evidence and testimony from both sides.

“People have a right to know what happened.”

Debbie Houk said she has not always felt the proceedings should remain open.

“But now I feel it would be wrong to close the courtroom. Why would the defense want the (proceedings) closed if they have nothing to hide?”

Jack Houk said he believes that question also will be returned for reconsideration.

A year ago, a three-judge panel of the appeals court heard arguments to transfer the case to juvenile court. In March, the court ruled 2-1 to vacate Motto’s order and told the local courts to reconsider or conduct another hearing.

“I think this will go the same way,” he said. “The court will rule 2-1 and send it back to the county. But I think that Hodge has made up his mind and won’t be swayed.”

If the proceedings remain closed, Jack Houk said, when hearings eventually are conducted only he, his wife and daughter, and Jordan’s father and grandmother will be present to hear what transpires.

“And there will always be a discrepancy about what was said.”

Jack Houk said he has given the matter much thought since the shooting.

“We want to do the right thing by my daughter and the baby. Allowing everyone to know what is said (in court) is part of that.”

But more is on his mind.

“If (Jordan) did it, and was tried as an adult and found guilty, there was the chance he would go to prison for the rest of his life. Now he’s considered a juvenile. But if he did it, he should be getting help.”

Jordan has been in the Edmund L. Thomas Adolescent Center in Erie since March 2, 2009.

Jack Houk pointed out Jordan has had access to schooling but not treatment.

“If he did it, he needs help, treatment.”