Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Law, The Courts, The Theatre of the Absurd

A new hearing has been set for August 5 in front of the same judge that previously ruled an alleged 11-year-old Pennsylvania killer should be tried as an adult, reported the Youngstown Vindicator.

Jordan Brown is charged with a double homicide in the shotgun killing of 26-year-old Kenzie Marie Houk and her unborn child as she slept in the New Galilee farmhouse where she lived with Jordan, his father, and her two daughters. He was 11 at the time and is now 13.

Lawrence County Common Pleas Court Judge Dominick Motto had ruled that Jordan Brown’s failure to admit guilt after two psychologists testified that rehabilitation would make him unlikely candidate for rehabilitation. The Superior Court set aside Judge Motto’s decision in March finding that his reasoning violated Brown’s constitutional right against self- incrimination.

If tried as a juvenile, Brown could only be incarcerated until age 21, while he could face life in prison if tried as an adult. He would be the youngest person at the time of the offense in American history to be sentence to life in prison.

Although the judge in Brown’s case kept him in adult court a New Jersey judge has done the opposite but has been overturned. In a strange twist a Middlesex County, New Jersey judge has been reversed by the state’s appeals court for refusing to grant a motion by prosecutors to try a juvenile as an adult, according to the Star-Ledger.

Last month, Judge Roger Daley, denied a motion by the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office to try two Perth Amboy juveniles as adults for the murder of a man in Woodbridge.

The appeals court concluded under state law, if a juvenile is more than 16 years old and is charged with committing any of the more serious crimes like murder or attempted murder, "waiver to the (adult court) should follow as a matter of course," if the prosecutor makes the motion and shows there is a likelihood the juvenile committed the crime.

"We are constrained to conclude... that the trial court permitted its personal views to affect its legal analysis," the appellate judges said.

David Oakley, an attorney representing one of the juveniles, told the Star-Ledger "its a shame our law insists on adjudicating juveniles as adults."

"My client's life takes on a new course now," Oakley said.

Judge Daley has been overruled once again, more recently on an assault case involving juveniles. Judge Daley obviously does not agree with the statute relating to charging juveniles as adults. Although he is obligated to enforce the New Jersey statute—he has also taken a courageous position in opposition to a mechanical, unforgiving statute.

If charging Brown with murder as an adult, facing the possibility of life in prison, is not absurd enough, or if New Jersey’s unyielding drive to try juveniles as adults does not cause one to pause, take a look at Missouri. A five-year-old girl could face murder charges in the recent drowning of a toddler in a bathtub, according to

Jermaine Johnson, Jr., 18 months old, was in a Kansas City house on June 3rd with other children, but the 16-year-old girl who was supposed to be looking after them fell asleep, a police spokesman said.

Investigators learned through interviews that the 5-year-old girl in the house got irritated at the boy. "She said she got angry because he would not stop crying and she held him under the water until he stopped crying," according to police.

Kansas City police are waiting for a medical examiner's report on how Johnson died, but have investigated the death as a homicide and murder charges may follow.

Some of the decisions that relate to juveniles, actually children, have distorted what is fair and justice. The courts and legislatures have devolved into the theatre of the absurd--when a judge has no discretion and must act as a rubber stamp for the prosecution; or a five-year-old could face a murder charge; or an 11-year-old could face life in prison.

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