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March 11, 2010

"How Young Is Too Young to Face Life in Prison?"

Ht_Jordan_Brown_100311_mn The title of this post is the headline of this new effective piece from ABC News and Good Morning America.  Here is how it starts:

The father of a 12-year-old Pennsylvania boy charged last year with murder says his son is "just an all-around good kid" who doesn't deserve to face life in prison.

A judge will soon decide whether or not Jordan Brown should be tried as an adult for the murder of his soon-to-be stepmother, and face a possible life sentence. The case is at the crux of a national debate on juvenile justice, playing out in a small-town courthouse.

Before his arrest, Jordan was the quarterback of the Pee Wee football team and a good student. His dad says he was "big into sports" with "a lot of friends in school."

But on Feb. 20, 2009, his father's fiancée, Kenzie Houk, 26, was found dead, shot in the head in the family's rural farmhouse in Western Pennsylvania. She was eight-and-a-half months pregnant at the time.

Prosecutors quickly built a case against Jordan, then 11, accusing him of using his shotgun -- a hunting gift from his dad -- to fire one fatal bullet before getting on the bus for elementary school. Within 24 hours, the fifth-grader was arrested for murder. When Chris Brown saw his son being taken away by police, the boy was "scared, frightened, [and] crying."

"Jordan's never been away from me for any length of time since he was born," he recalled thinking. "He was terrified, terrified." Brown said his son "looked like a baby" when he was incarcerated. "He looked like a baby in an orange jumpsuit in an adult jail."

Brown continues to proclaim his son's innocence. But the family of Houk has reportedly described Jordan as angry and profoundly jealous of the fact that the new woman in his father's life was about to have a son, to be named Chris after his dad. Jordan was charged with two counts of homicide. Chris Brown believes his son comprehends what he stands accused of, "but he doesn't appreciate the magnitude of it. He's simply too young."

Too young, many argue, to face the prospect of an adult sentence. Kids charged with murder in Pennsylvania are automatically considered adults and only a judge's decision can move the trial to junvenile court.

If convicted, the two routes have radically different sentences, either life in prison without parole, or juvenile detention and freedom with no record at age 21. Due to tough-on-crime laws, Pennsylvania has more juveniles sentenced to life in prison without parole than any other state.

March 11, 2010 at 08:31 AM | Permalink


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I'm familiar with hunting culture and all that entails, but giving an 11-year-old boy a shotgun is just wildly inappropriate. I don't care how mature you think the kid is.

Posted by: j | Mar 11, 2010 12:28:34 PM

I know that GOD will help this boy and his family through this trying time. Please LORD give hope and justice in this time. Help the lawmakers and and attourneys do what is right and just. I send prayers to the family. Do not let the "Gossipers" and the ones quick to judge bring your spirits down. Trust in the Lord's migthy word and he will get you through this trial. Have faith that all will be right and give love to those who are out to judge, persicute, gossip, and condemn. My prayers are for you!!!


Posted by: Tim | Mar 11, 2010 12:51:55 PM

Before discussing hypothetical sentences, let's allow the trial to run its course. If he didn't do it, there will be no sentence. How eager do you think jurors will be to convict for murder a kid who looks like that?


If he's guilty, and in fact acted in a deliberated manner out of anger and jealousy, then no matter how cute he is, there should be, and is going to be, serious punisment. The victim isn't any less dead on account of the kid's age.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 11, 2010 7:22:51 PM

The father should face some of the music. I support gun culture. However, children should have access to weapons only under the supervision of an adult. If you want the child to target practice or hunt, remove the gun from a safe and supervise the activity. Replace the gun in the safe after done.

The father negligently entrusted the gun to this child, a lawsuit by the estates of the victims might claim. The police should also investigate the possibility, this verged into criminal negligence, especially if the defendant had expressed anger at the victims. If proven, the father may face negligent homicide charges, although his criminal act was wrongful entrustment only.

As to the age of the murderer. The victims are dead. The child knew right from wrong. There was a cold dispatch of his rivals for the attention of his father. Scary kid if crossed. LWOP should not be ruled out for the safety of the public.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 11, 2010 9:11:32 PM

I actually agree with Mr. Otis. We don't have a guilty verdict. We don't even know the strength of the state's case. (The state always says it is "strong.)

Let's assume the state manages a guilty verdict. Then, either a judge or jury will have to deal with the scientific evidence regarding whether youth's have developed minds.

And, let's say he gets a high sentence. Then a governor will have to get deal with this issue politically when asked to commute his sentence.

Posted by: s.cotus | Mar 11, 2010 9:25:03 PM

The lawyer dumbass has it backwards. Say, this 12 year old can be shown to have the moral development of a two year old by objective testing and subjective but strong impression, by a brain scan matching that of a two year old.

That makes him more dangerous, not less dangerous. That is compelling evidence justifying the death penalty as an expulsion from this world, and the incapacitation of a rabid killer devoid of any moral ability.

The same backwards, wrong headed, lawyer, dumbass reasoning goes for the insane, and for the mentally retarded defendant. These populations are more dangerous than the contract killer who must get paid to kill. Yet, the penalties are backwards.

[This comment's following that of s.cotus is completely coincidental, and is not meant to rebut any other comment.]

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 11, 2010 10:10:23 PM

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