New Castle News


January 7, 2014

Our Opinion: Jordan Brown case drags on and on and on

NEW CASTLE — We remain astonished at how badly Pennsylvania’s court system has botched the Jordan Brown case.

And botched is putting it mildly. Here we are, nearly five years after Jordan — who was 11 at the time — was arrested for the shooting death of Kenzie Houk and her unborn son in the New Beaver home they shared with Jordan’s father. Despite the passage of time, there is absolutely no indication the courts are anywhere close to a resolution of Jordan’s case.

In fact, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court last week agreed to hear another appeal of Jordan’s case. The court will examine whether the Superior Court was correct in vacating the decision by Lawrence County Judge John Hodge, who had ruled Jordan was responsible for the shooting.

Jordan, now 16, is going through the legal system as a juvenile. This means the courts are expediting his case, or so we are told. But you couldn’t tell that from the available record.

Although the legal proceedings for a juvenile such as Jordan are handled behind closed doors. We do know that Hodge made his ruling in May 2012 after years of assorted legal wrangling. Then the Superior Court overturned Hodge nearly a year later.

The commonwealth appealed the Superior Court decision to the Supreme Court shortly thereafter. But it took the high court seven months in a juvenile case simply to decide to hear the appeal.

Now the parties have until the middle of next month to complete the filing of briefs related to the appeal. But the Supreme Court has yet do decide when it will actually hear the matter.

And after that, the court must make an actual decision. How long will that take? We have no idea, but if the court required seven months just to decide to hear the case, we shudder to think of the time involved in reviewing the issues and rendering a judgment.

Plus, if the Supreme Court upholds the current decision in Jordan’s case, the whole thing will be sent back to Lawrence County, where the process essentially will begin again.

It’s important to understand that Jordan has been in custody at various sites since February 2009. During this time, he has been housed and educated.

But the juvenile justice system is supposed to promote treatment and rehabilitation of the children within it. In Jordan’s case, however, there has been no rehabilitation because during the time he has been in custody, his status has been either not guilty under the law or his adjudication has been under appeal.

We challenge anyone out there to show how the handling of Jordan’s case is in his interest, the public’s interest or the interest of the Houk family. The time frame involved here is well beyond ridiculous. It is officially a travesty.

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