11-year-old Pennsylvanian is Youngest Person in the WORLD to Face Life Without Parole

By Daniel Tencer  Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

 

jordanbrownafp 11 year old Pennsylvanian is youngest person in world to face life without parole

Boy's claim of innocence prompted judge to try him as adult

A Pennsylvania boy who was 11 years old when he allegedly shot and killed his father's pregnant fiancee could find himself being the youngest person ever sentenced to life without parole.

Human rights campaigners have said the case shows the US' justice system to be unusually harsh towards juvenile offenders, and argue that a life sentence for the boy could violate international law.

Prosecutors allege that Jordan Brown, now 13, shot and killed 26-year-old Kenzie Houk as she slept in her home in Lawrence County, near Pittsburgh, in February, 2009. Houk was pregnant with a nearly full-term child at the time. Brown was charged with two counts of homicide.

Brown's lawyers on Tuesday argued an appeal against a judge's earlier decision to have the adolescent tried as an adult.

Pennsylvania's laws on juvenile trials are among the least accommodating in the country, with juvenile suspects in homicide cases automatically tried as adults, unless a judge decides otherwise.

According to WTAE in Pittsburgh, the judge's original decision to try Brown as an adult was based on Brown's refusal to admit guilt. Brown's lawyers argued Wednesday that the decision violated his right to be presumed innocent, as well as his right to avoid self-incrimination.

Deborah Houk, the victim's mother, had little sympathy for Jordan Brown's plight.

"He knew what he was doing. He killed my baby," she said of Brown in an interview not long after the murders. The Houk family has put up a website attempting to dispel a growing movement seeking to defend Brown.

But human rights group Amnesty International said that Brown is the youngest person the international organization knows of anywhere in the world facing a life sentence without possibility of parole.

"It is shocking that anyone this young could face life imprisonment without parole, let alone in a country which labels itself as a progressive force for human rights," Susan Lee, Amnesty International's director for the Americas, said in a statement.

Amnesty notes that the US is one of only two countries in the world who have refused to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Somalia is the other country.

Jordan Brown is the youngest person known to Amnesty International to be currently at risk of being sentenced to life imprisonment with no parole. However, there are already at least 2,500 people in the US serving life imprisonment without parole for crimes committed when they were under 18.

According to the Guardian, Pennsylvania has 450 juveniles serving life sentences, more than any other state.

The Supreme Court has been moving in recent years towards greater protection for juvenile offenders. It ended the death penalty for people under 18 in 2005, and last year made homicide the only crime for which juveniles can be given a life sentence.

The Washington-based Sentencing Project told the Guardian that the US is the only country in the world that has juveniles serving life without parole. "That leads to only two conclusions: either kids in the US are far more violent than those in the rest of the world, or the US has developed uniquely harsh sentences."

Jordan Brown's father, whose fiancee was killed that night in 2009, agreed with the Sentencing Project, saying his son was too young to fully understand the consequences of his actions.

"Try to explain to a 12-year-old what the rest of your life means," he said. "It's incomprehensible for him."

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    [...] Prosecutors allege that Jordan Brown, now 13, shot and killed 26-year-old Kenzie Houk as she slept in her home in Lawrence County, near Pittsburgh, in February, 2009. Houk was pregnant with a nearly full-term child at the time. Brown was charged with two counts of homicide. Brown’s lawyers on Tuesday argued an appeal against a judge’s earlier decision to have the adolescent tried as an adult. READ [...]

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    [...] More → Blog this! Bookmark on Delicious Recommend on Facebook Share on Linkedin Share via MySpace Share with Stumblers Share on technorati Tweet about it Subscribe to the comments on this post Tell a friend   2011/01/26 at 9:01am | This entry was posted in News, Via Reddit and tagged brown, parole, rawstory.com. Bookmark the permalink. ← FBI infiltrator prepared government raid on antiwar groups in Minneapolis and Chicago DailyTech – Chicago Police: Tape Us, Get Sentenced to 15 Years in Prison → [...]

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  • [...] 11-year-old Pennsylvanian is youngest person in world to face life without parole According to the Guardian, Pennsylvania has 450 juveniles serving life sentences, more than any other state. [...]

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    [...] allegedly shot and killed his father’s fiancée, who just happened to be pregnant at the time. Kenzie Houk, who was nearly [...]

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AFP/HO/FILE – A Lawrence County Prison-issued photo shows Jordan Anthony Brown. US appeals judges Tuesday began considering …

PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania (AFP) – US appeals judges Tuesday began considering whether a 13-year-old boy accused of murder could be tried as an adult -- and risk spending the rest of his life behind bars.

The Pennsylvania Superior Court was considering a case that has attracted international scrutiny because of the possibility that Jordan Brown, who was just 11 at the time of his alleged crime, might be imprisoned as an adult and never be released.

The three-judge panel queried lawyers about the decision by a lower court to bar Brown from being sent to a juvenile court.

A key requirement of the juvenile court would be for Brown to show potential for rehabilitation, in which case he could be free as early as when he turned 21.

However, the lower court found against him after insisting that he show remorse -- something his lawyers say he can't do, given that he insists he did not commit the murder.

On Tuesday, defense lawyers argued that the lower court had violated Brown's Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination. Appeals judges said this was the key issue to consider.

"The bottom line is, from my viewpoint: were his Fifth Amendment rights violated because of the way the trial court handled these proceedings?" Superior Court Judge Cheryl Allen asked a prosecution lawyer.

But Christopher Carusone, Pennsylvania's chief deputy attorney general, said no one had tried to force a guilty plea on the boy.

"It was not used to determine guilt, because we're not there yet," he said, pointing out that the case hasn't gone to trial.

Brown was just 11, a chubby schoolboy, when he allegedly shot Kenzie Houk, then eight months pregnant, in the back of the head in February 2009 in her rural home northwest of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Prosecutors allege that the boy waited until his father left for work that Friday morning before entering Houk's bedroom and shooting her with a 20-gage shotgun.

After that, prosecutors say, he went to school, dropping the spent cartridge outside and leaving Houk's daughter, aged four, to discover the grisly scene.

Last year, a local judge ruled that Brown should stand trial as an adult for what is being considered the double murder of Houk and her near full-term baby son.

In the two years since the crime, Brown has been in custody and the case has drawn attention to how children are handled in the American criminal justice system.

Human rights group Amnesty International has campaigned to overturn the lower court judge's ruling, saying it is "deeply disturbed" by the fact that, if convicted, Brown would never be free again.

However, under Pennsylvania law, a serious crime like a homicide is initially filed in criminal court unless the defense can make a case for sending it to the juvenile system.

Wearing jewel-studded lockets bearing the image of their murdered daughter, Houk's parents said that they believe Brown should spend the rest of his life in prison.

"It's just like an alcoholic, how can you be rehabilitated if you don't know if you have a problem?" Deborah Houk, Kenzie's mother, told reporters.

While the family wants to see justice served, it is also growing weary of the long appeals process. There is no deadline for the Superior Court panel to make its ruling.

"This could go on and on," said Jack Houk, Kenzie's father, before revealing a tattoo on his wrist bearing the name of his daughter surrounded by elaborate decorations.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20110125/ts_alt_afp/uscrimejusticechildren_20110125230030