Thursday, May 9, 2013

PA Superior Court Vacates Juvenile Ruling in Case of 11-year-old Killer

The Pennsylvania Superior Court has overturned the Lawrence County adjudication of delinquency against Jordan Brown.

Brown was originally charged, at age 11, in an adult court with the first degree murder of his father's girlfriend, Kenzie Houk.  She was shot in the back of the head with a shotgun as she slept. If he had been convicted of first degree murder in an adult court he would have been the youngest offender ever sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

As a result of this decision, a new juvenile proceeding will be needed for the now-15-year-old.  This is not the first time the Superior Court has sent this case back to the Lawrence County Courts.  Initially, a trial court decision to try Brown as an adult was overturned and a second hearing resulted in the case being sent to juvenile court.

In reviewing the trial court record, the Superior Court took exception to the trial court's determination of the evidence, declaring in repeated instances that his findings were broader than justified by the evidence, according to the New Castle News.

Most importantly, the Superior Court found that the trial judge put too much emphasis on the testimony of a single witness who arrived to do some work 45 minutes after Brown left for school.  The worker noticed only his tire marks and the footprints of child in a fresh snow on the driveway.  The judge used that testimony to conclude that no one else could have entered the house before or after Brown left for school.

The Superior Court concluded that Judge John Hodge had “committed a palpable abuse of discretion in rendering a ruling that is plainly contrary to the evidence.”

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