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Jordan Brown Appeal: Try Boy as Adult for Murder?

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By Jason Beahm on January 28, 2011 9:01 AM

How young is too young to be tried as an adult? That's the question before a Pennsylvania court involving Jordan Brown, who was 11 years old when he was arrested and charged with the murder of his father's pregnant fiancé, Kenzie Houk.

Prosecutors sought to charge him as an adult for allegedly shooting Houk in the back of the head. Brown could face life in prison without parole if convicted.

Brown, now 13, is accused of double murder in the case of Kenzie Houk and her unborn child who also died. If the court rules that he can be tried as a juvenile, he can't be held beyond the age of 21, which will be 2018, the Beaver County Times reports.

The court listened to arguments from both sides this week. Brown's attorney said it may be several months before the court issues a decision on the Jordan Brown appeal regarding charging and trying him as an adult.

In 2010, in a much anticipated decision, the U.S. Supreme Court considered the question of whether it was cruel and unusual punishment to sentence a juvenile to life in prison for non-homicide cases in a case called Graham v. Florida. The Court ruled that only juvenile offenders convicted of crimes involving the killing of another person may be sent to prison for life without the possibility of parole. Therefore, that decision does not help in Brown's case.

The Jordan Brown appeal case involves a bit of a Catch-22. The prosecution has said that Brown is not a candidate for juvenile detention because he has a high risk of reoffending. The prosecution cites the fact that Brown maintains his innocence.

In other words, in order to be tried as a juvenile, he must first admit that he is guilty. Naturally his attorneys argue this is a constitutional violation Brown's right to avoid self-incrimination. "It is our opinion that you cannot take this as a negative factor," attorney David Acker said.

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