Since we are coming up on Jordan having been held for THREE years without a trial, I thought it was time for a recap on what has happened to him. And it doesn't even include everything because at this point I would have to sit down and write a book if I were to get in all of the details.Here's the blog post link.
Jordan Brown’s three year fight for justice
FEBRUARY 19, 2012 LEAVE A COMMENT (EDIT)
Jordan Brown at age 11
I have worked on Jordan Brown’s case for over one year now. It has been one of the more hostile environments I have become entrenched in. However, while I have been advocating for Jordan for over a year, his battle has actually waged for three years.
Jordan was arrested on February 21st of 2009 for the murder of his father’s fiance Kenzie Houk and her unborn baby. The murder took place on the morning of February 20th. Though there was no physical evidence directly linking Jordan to the murders, he quickly became the prime suspect because of conflicting statements made by Kenzie’s daughter who was 7 at the time. Initially she maintained she saw nothing odd. However, when she gave a third statement she changed her story, implicating Jordan in the murders by claiming she saw him carrying two guns and attempting to conceal them with a blanket.
Eventually, the only indirect evidence the prosecution would present at Jordan’s preliminary hearing was a shotgun shell that was found on the property and small amounts of gunshot residue on one of his shirts. Both items could be explained by the fact that Jordan and his father shot guns on the property and neither directly linked him to the murder.
What the prosecution did not present was physical evidence that demonstrated Jordan’s gun was used in the crime. A trooper gave testimony that a similar weapon was used, but no blood was reportedly found on the shotgun collected by the police. Blood evidence was not found on Jordan’s clothing either. The medical examiner stated that Kenzie was shot within close range which would have meant blood should have been found on the shooter’s clothing and also on or inside of the weapon. This was not the case with Jordan.
Jordan, on the other hand, denied any involvement in the murder. He told state troopers that he observed a truck on the property before he left for school. Both Jordan and his soon to be 7 year old step-sister were questioned at their school the day of the murder. Jordan’s father, Chris Brown, would later testify at Jordan’s preliminary hearing that he never gave the school or the state troopers permission to question his son and that he had even spoken to one of the troopers who was involved in the questioning prior to her having visited the school. She had an opportunity to ask him for permission and she didn’t. This was a major point of contention because of Jordan’s age and the seriousness of the the offenses the police were investigating.
Additionally, in the state of Pennsylvania a minor child age ten or older must be tried as an adult if charged for a homicide crime. The only way for a child of this age to receive a trial in juvenile court is to receive a waiver into the juvenile court system. This meant that the stakes were unbelievably high for the children involved in this already tragic case, especially Jordan who was 11 years old.
Armed with the conflicting statements of a seven year old child and a shotgun obtained from a search of Jordan’s bedroom, the troopers arrested Jordan in the middle of the night. Jordan and his father were recreational shooters and about a week prior to Kenzie’s murder, Jordan had won a turkey shooting contest with the shotgun in question on Valentine’s Day.
Troopers noted that the shotgun had recently been fired, but no one took into account the fact that the family lived in a large property with plenty of acres where Jordan and Chris shot guns regularly, nor did they take into account the contest Jordan won the week before.
Perhaps more disturbingly was the fact the troopers seemed to look no further than Jordan. They questioned two additional suspects in the murder of Kenzie and her unborn baby: Chris Brown and Adam Harvey. Chris was quickly eliminated as a suspect because he had gone to work the morning of the murder and was not present when Kenzie was believed to have died.
After the children left for school there was a window of time when Kenzie was alone in the home with her four year old daughter. It was during this time that her youngest daughter found her mother deceased and alerted tree trimmers who were on the property.
Adam Harvey was also questioned. He had been involved romantically with Kenzie previously. He had been led to believe the two shared Kenzie’s youngest daughter, but on February 13th of 2009, Harvey learned he was not the father of the daughter he thought was his. This information was revealed in a paternity suit through the local court. Harvey’s financial obligation to Kenzie’s youngest daughter ceased, but one has to wonder how he must have felt to learn of this deception just a week before Kenzie’s death.
The relationship between Adam Harvey and Kenzie Houk was already tumultuous at best. In the years prior to her murder, Kenzie had taken out not one, but two protective orders against her ex-boyfriend. She cited instances where he threatened to kill her and her family.
One of the protective orders was taken out in 2006. The other was dated in February of 2008.
But none of this information was deemed relevant by law enforcement. Instead, they felt confident they had settled on the right person: an eleven year old boy who did not have a history of violence.
Jordan was taken to the Lawrence County Jail. The warden, Charles Adamo, immediately asked that Jordan be removed from the facility. Though the jail was equipped to accommodate 300 adult inmates, it was in no way set up to handle the unique needs of a juvenile. The warden told the press “I’ve got to keep him in isolation. He has to be checked constantly. But he’s also got the right to be able to get out for a bit. He’s got the right to get out for a bit. He’s got the right to a shower. It’s really tough.”
Jordan’s attorneys filed a motion to have him moved to a juvenile facility. He was not moved until the morning of February 25th, however. He was then transported to Allencrest Juvenile Detention Center. He would not remain there long, however, because it would soon be determined that there were considerable cost-savings to be had if Jordan were moved to yet another facility.
In just a little over one week’s time, Jordan was moved three times. The boy had been charged as an adult in the murder of the woman he had come to know as his future mother, he had been held in isolation, he had been separated from the people he loved, and then to top it off he had been moved from three locations (his home to the jail; the jail to Allencrest; and then Allencrest to Edmund L. Thomas Adolescent Detention Center).
Jordan’s preliminary hearing took place on March 24th of 2009. Though Jordan’s attorneys were surprised by the lack of physical evidence presented by the prosecution, the media continued to paint an alarming and unnervingly biased account of a baby-faced killer. Some accounts made more of an attempt to appear objective than others, but none of the media discussed the clear lack of evidence in detail or examined other potential suspects in the case.
In the public, Jordan had already been convicted. His eventual trial was merely a formality.
Jordan’s attorneys next attempted to get Jordan’s case waived into juvenile court. On March 29th of 2010, Judge Motto denied this request on the grounds that Jordan could not be rehabilitated because he would not accept the blame for the murders. In other words, he would not confess to the crimes. The attorneys appealed this decision to the Superior court.
Meanwhile, I started a petition on change.org asking people to sign on to protect Jordan’s constitutional right not to have to bear testimony against himself in order to win the right to have his case tried in juvenile court.
The Superior court remanded the decision back to Judge Motto and ruled he violated Jordan’s constitutional rights when he made his original decision. Before Motto had the opportunity to make his final decision, I printed all of the signatures from the petition and wrote him a letter, asking him to please move Jordan’s case to juvenile court. I sent a similar letter to the Attorney General, along with nearly 100 pages of signatures from people throughout the world.
A couple of weeks after sending out the signatures, Judge Motto finalized his ruling and moved Jordan’s case to juvenile court on August 23rd of 2011. It was one of the first rays of hope any of us had seen in a very long and difficult campaign on behalf of Jordan’s rights. We all believed that within a very short amount of time Jordan would receive a delinquency hearing and everyone would finally be able to envision what the future might look like for Jordan and his family.
We were wrong.
Three local media outlets in Pennsylvania requested access to the juvenile hearing. Judge Motto recused himself and a new judge – Judge Hodge – was assigned to preside over the case. Judge Hodge denied the media access as juvenile hearings are held privately in the state of Pennsylvania.
The media appealed the decision through the higher Superior Court. The court will hear arguments pertaining to the appeal on March 28th of 2012. Jordan will have been incarcerated without trial for over three years by that time.
The New Castle News is one of the outlets petitioning the courts to grant access to the hearing. I inquired about their action in October of 2011. Michael Olszak responded to my questions, writing:
"For two and a half years, he was considered an adult and his case hung in legal limbo while lawyers wrangled over it. During this time, Jordan remained in a juvenile facility, held and educated. But if he is innocent, a big chunk of his young life was lost, and if he is guilty, crucial rehabilitation time has been lost. It is my view that this case has been a travesty of justice and points to a crucial flaw in the way Pennsylvania handles such cases. It is my hope that by publicizing what has happened in Jordan’s case, this mistake won’t be repeated."
It was ironic to me that Olszak brought up the rehabilitation time that Jordan has lost. If the media believes that Jordan is guilty, their actions have posed a greater risk to society in the future because he has lost a considerable amount of time that could have been spent in a rehabilitation program.
The Superior Court does not have a timeline for when they might rule on this matter. Jordan could be incarcerated indefinitely at this point. He will go before the judge as a teenager instead of the pre-adolescent boy he was the day of his arrest.
Meanwhile, there are no further answers in the death of Kenzie and her unborn son. If Jordan is innocent – as he still maintains after three long years that he is – it means someone else had a hand in her murder and also in the death of her unborn son, Christopher.
What kind of s0-called civilized society do we live in if we hold juveniles in solitary confinement for any length of time in an adult facility? It happened to Jordan Brown and it happened to Cristian Fernandez. Both juveniles share many disturbing similarities as they have attended their court appearances shackled, faced life without parole sentences at an alarmingly young age (Cristian still does), and were convicted in the media long before either spent any significant time in the courtroom.
Are we reverting to an uncivilized society? Does our treatment of children in the justice system reflect the inner workings of our society’s true moral conscience? Or lack thereof?
More importantly, will Jordan ever receive a hearing before a judge that is fair and impartial as he is promised by the state’s constitution? He has been systematically denied his constitutional rights. The state has requirements that a person receive a trial within one year or less, but Jordan has been incarcerated for three.
Jordan’s case begs the most important question we can ask ourselves when it comes to our children: what moral and ethical responsibility do we have when it comes to the lives of children? Regardless of perceived mistakes made (real or imagined).
Have we no responsibility when it comes to children at all?