PA Judge Rules 12 Year Old Should be Tried as Adult for Murder
Via Sentencing Law and Policy comes the story of Jordan Brown. Jordan is 12 years old. When he was 11, prosecutors say he took his shotgun and killed his pregnant stepmother while she was in bed, then left for school. The theory seems to be he was mad he lost his bedroom to make way for the new baby. He had no prior contact with the criminal justice system and had always been a polite, typical kid. Even today, the doctors say there is no sign of mental illness.
Jordan's father and family friends are standing by Jordan. They, and his lawyer, say Jordan is innocent.
A judge in Pittsburgh ruled this week that Jordan should be tried as an adult. If convicted, he will be the youngest person in the nation sentenced to life without parole. [More...]
Judge Dominick Motto, in his ruling, determined that Jordan could not be rehabilitated in 9 years (the juvie system would release him at 21.) How did the judge look into the future and arrive at this conclusion? Principally by considering the effect of the deaths on the community and family and, get this, Jordan's refusal to confess. The opinion is here.
This is just plain wrong. No one, juvenile or adult, is required to confess -- particularly before trial. The impact of the crime on the community has nothing to do with whether the juvenile can be rehabilitated, which should be the principal factor in the determination of where he should be tried. No child should be locked up in prison for life at 12 years old. It's costly, cruel and foolish.
More on Jordan from the CNN article linked above:
At the time of the slaying, Jordan was a chubby fifth-grader with dark brown hair and an energetic smile. He liked riding bikes and reading Harry Potter books. Since the third grade, he played quarterback in his community's football league.
Family and friends describe him as an "all-American boy." On weekends, Jordan hunted alongside his father, Chris Brown, who purchased the youth-sized 20-gauge shotgun state police believe was the murder weapon. The gun was given to Jordan as a present for Easter, and the boy's lawyers say he only used it for hunting.
Children's brains function differently than adults. The judge engaged in little more than rank speculation in finding he could not be rehabilitated in 9 years. Dr. Paul Friday, a clinical psychologist, had this to say:
Dr. Friday says an 11-year-old's brain is not capable of effective thought. He says effective thought does not come until the age of 25 and over.
"Will Jordan think at the age of 25 like he is now? No. Will he be able to differentiate good, bad, right, wrong, guilt or innocence at 25 better than now? Absolutely," explains Friday. "Are we sure that Jordan will not get insight into what he did? No we're not."
The judge also wrote in his decision that Brown refused to take responsibility for the crime which is believed necessary for rehabilitation.
"To say that he has no chance for rehabilitation would be a very difficult thing for another human being to say because the future at best is a probability," Friday said.
Alternet has more. Jordan is not the only child in this predicament. 2,500 kids in the U.S. are serving life without parole for offenses committed before they were 18. It's a violation of human rights laws.
Bad decision, bad precedent. I hope the Jordan's lawyers can appeal the decision before trial. Here's the website set up for Jordan. From the factual background:
Kenzie had received death threats from a former boyfriend in the months before her murder—a lead the police inexplicably have not taken seriously, relying instead on a dubious and unreliable statement from Jordan’s younger step-sister.
He had no motive to commit such an ugly and terrible act. He loves Kenzie and her daughters; there were no “blended family” problems as has been irresponsibly speculated in the media.
Jordan participates in school sports, likes reading books, and hunts with his dad. He attends summer bible camp. Jordan’s an all-American kid just like most parents hope to raise.
He is a kind, gentle, and honest boy who has consistently denied having committed the crime. It is shameful that this defenseless child has become the victim of inadequate police work, prosecutorial political ambitions, and a media feeding frenzy.
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