Chris Brown wouldn’t wish his experience on anyone.
Brown saw his son, Jordan, charged as an adult at age 11 following the deaths of his fiancee Kenzie Marie Houk and his unborn son. Convicted in juvenile court, Jordan, now 20, spent nine years in the juvenile justice system.
The conviction was overturned last week by unanimous opinion of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court who exonerated Jordan and cleared his name. Due to double jeopardy, he can not be charged again with any aspect of the crime.
At a press conference Monday in the Beaver office of defense co-council Stephen Colafella, Brown explained what it was like to watch his son grow up in such circumstances and what he felt upon learning of the exoneration.
“It’s been a long road,” he said of the years he and his son were apart.
The Supreme Court’s exoneration, Brown said “was bittersweet.”
“I was overwhelmed with joy but still full of sorrow knowing that we will not have closure with our loss,” Brown said. “It’s good to have Jordan back, to have him at home and the ability to put this behind us and move on. That was our main goal. This is something I wouldn’t wish on any other parent out there.”
Chris Brown said his son “is doing great,” and has had no issues. He noted that reports received on his son’s progress while in the juvenile system, were all good.
“He graduated high school with a 3.9 grade-point average and is doing well in college,” he said. “I’m interested to see what life brings down the road for him.”
Following the court’s ruling that the evidence against his son did not support the conviction, Brown said he would like to see the case reinvestigated.
“There are people who are sworn to do that,” he said, “I hope they reinvestigate and pursue the actual murderer who has been walking the streets for nine years.”
However, Brown said he won’t dwell on the time apart from his son as he grew up.
“What matters is what we do from this day forward,” he said. “It’s been a rough road for everybody involved and we all learned a lot in the last nine years.”
He then added, “I’m getting by. I’ve done so for nine years.”
Brown said he does not believe the community has harshly judged him and his son.
“There are people with a point of view that is not ours,” he said. “But (others) overwhelmingly gave us support and sympathy and haven’t waived from that.”
Co-defense council Dennis Elisco, for example, “was never wavering,” Brown said. “He put in the hours and never gave up, always believed in Jordan’s innocence. I thank God for these two every day.”
Regarding the Supreme Court’s ruling, Brown said he was not shocked when the lawyers called.
“I expected it,” he said. “We were all expecting it, hoping for it, cautiously optimistic is the term we’ve used for the last nine years. I’m just disappointed that it’s taken this long.”
If anything good is to come of the experience, Brown said, he hopes officials “take a look at the juvenile system. There are aspects that need to be fixed.”
Elisco agreed that in this case justice was delayed. “But I feel satisfied, that justice has been served,” Elisco said, but called for changes in juvenile justice system. The goal of juvenile prosecution, he said is rehabilitation not punishment. Cases should be expedited, he said.
Brown said he has been frustrated by the system “since Jordan was pulled from his bed at 3 a.m. and taken to an adult jail.”
After the case was moved to the juvenile system, Brown said, he went daily to a Beaver County juvenile facility then for three years daily to an Erie facility, logging 200 miles round trip each day to visit his son.
“Jordan was warehoused in a facility supposed to house children for 28-day turnover,” he said. “For half of his life Jordan has been in the juvenile system
Asked his hope for his son since the ruling, Brown said he would like to see Jordan’s mug shot disappear from Google. “The photo, leaked from the jail, was taken at 3 a.m. after the 11-year-old was awakened in the middle of the night and booked on homicide charges,” he said.
“I’d rather see the young man who above all odds came out of this holding his head up high, doing great even though he is a victim being falsely accused and exonerated. A lot of damage was done to Jordan. His name was ruined, but in the next 20 or 30 years he will be a productive member of society. Great things are ahead of him.”
Brown refused to comment on possible civil recourse, saying he will leave that to the lawyers.