Thursday, January 12, 2012

Jordan Brown's case back in front of appellate court

Jordan Brown is accused of shooting his father's pregnant girlfriend while she slept.  He was 11-years-old at the time. The killing occurred three years ago and his case continues to wind its way through the Pennsylvania courts.  Initially, the issue was whether Brown should be tried as a juvenile or an adult and face life in prison.  That issue made it to the Pennsylvania Superior Court.

The issue was resolved and Brown faces prosecution as a juvenile.  Now his case is back in Superior Court this time to determine if his juvenile trial should be open to the public.

Attorneys from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and two other newspapers recently argued before the Superior Court that journalists and the public have a constitutional right to attend the juvenile trial.

Lawrence County judge in August decided that Brown, who is now 14, should be handled in juvenile court and closed to the public. But the Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and New Castle News appealed a judge's decision barring access to the proceedings, putting the decision about whether to open the trial in the hands of a three-judge Superior Court panel.

According to the Post-Gazette, attorneys for the newspapers said there is a compelling public interest to open the case, and that privacy rights that usually apply to juveniles do not apply because the February 2009 killings have already received so much publicity.

Jordan's defense attorney, however, said the extensive publicity is all the more reason why Jordan's case should remain closed. He said a common pleas judge did not abuse his discretion under the state's Juvenile Act, which allows open hearings for children 12 and older who are accused of heinous crimes.

Jordan's attorneys and the attorney general's office, which is trying the case, interpret the statute as implicitly barring public access to hearings of children younger than 12, reported the Post-Gazette.

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