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May 10, 2013

Jordan Brown Case: Next step unclear, attorneys say

NEW CASTLE — The Jordan Brown case has stretched into its fifth year.

But it is not over yet.

And the lawyers representing the 15-year-old don’t know exactly what will happen next.

On Wednesday, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania overturned the verdict of Lawrence County Judge John Hodge saying his ruling was contrary to the evidence. The three-judge panel ordered the case back to Lawrence County juvenile court.

Hodge had ruled last year that Jordan was responsible for the shooting death of Kenzie Marie Houk and her unborn son. Houk — the fiancée of Jordan’s father — was fatally shot at the New Beaver Borough home she shared with Jordan, his father and her two daughters.

Jordan was 11 at the time of the Feb. 20, 2009, incident. He was arrested the following morning, charged as an adult as required by Pennsylvania law.

After two and a half years of legal wrangling, the case was moved to juvenile court where, in April 2012, Jordan was determined to be delinquent — the equivalent of a guilty verdict in adult court.

Jordan was ordered into treatment within the juvenile justice system, where he could remain until his 21st birthday.

Wednesday’s ruling changes that. However, to what is unclear.

“We’re not sure what the next step is,” said attorney Stephen Colafella of Monaca, one of Jordan’s lawyers. “We’re waiting to see if the commonwealth appeals.”

Anthony Krastek, Pennsylvania’s senior deputy attorney general who prosecuted the case, said he and others are still reviewing the order.

He said it is possible the prosecution will appeal and request the full court for review, but added no decision has been made.

Because of that uncertainty, Colafella would like to see Jordan released from custody. However, he expects that won’t happen “given the state of things.”

Jordan is being held at George Junior Republic, a juvenile detention center in Grove City. He has been in custody at various facilities since his arrest.

Neither Colafella nor Jordan’s other attorney, Dennis Elisco of New Castle, would say whether they have or will ask the court to release the teen.

However, a detention hearing for Jordan has been scheduled for 3 p.m. Monday.

Colafella said he would like to see a new trial in juvenile court.

The defense’s appeal to the Superior Court challenged the sufficiency or weight of the evidence Hodge had considered, Colafella explained.

“We could be back to square one with a new trial and the same evidence,” he said.

Noting the appeals court said Hodge’s decision was contrary to the evidence presented at Jordan’s hearing, Colafella called the evidence “problematic, inadequate.

“We had said the evidence was insufficient to support the ruling,” he noted. “We’ve come a long way, but we’re a long way from over on this case.”

Multiple attempts to reach Hodge Thursday were unsuccessful.

Elisco echoed Colafella’s comments.

“We’re trying to figure out where to go from here.”

Elisco said he, Colafella and the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia will examine the Superior Court ruling as well as related law.

“The court reviewed all of the records, all of the evidence and concluded that it is insufficient to support the (guilty) ruling” Elisco said.

“The (superior) court vacated the judgment and (said) that the judge abused his discretion. That is what we maintained all along.”

Elisco noted the court ordered Jordan’s case be returned to Lawrence County for further action.

However, it did not specifically say what that action should be.

“In many ways, this puts us back to square one.”

(Email: nlowry@ncnewsonline.com)

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