NEW CASTLE, PA
The state Attorney General’s office is arguing to the Superior Court that a lower court’s denying a petition to prosecute an 11-year-old murder suspect as a juvenile was proper.
The attorney general’s brief was due Monday, and was in the mail, the office said.
The Superior Court is reviewing a decision by Lawrence County Common Pleas Judge Dominick Motto that the case of Jordan Brown, charged with killing his father’s pregnant girlfriend, should remain in adult court.
Brown, now 13, is accused of shooting Kenzie Houk, 26, with a shotgun in the back of the head as she lay in bed the morning of Feb. 20, 2009. Her near-term fetus, a boy, died from lack of oxygen.
Judge Motto denied a petition by the boy’s lawyers in March that asked for a transfer of the case to juvenile court.
Judge Motto denied the petition because he said Brown’s defense did not prove he was amenable to rehabilitation in the juvenile system.
Brown’s lawyers argued that Judge Motto’s decision violated Brown’s right against self-incrimination because it indicated the boy would have to admit his guilt if he were to prove amenability to rehabilitation.
Brown’s lawyers would not have been able to appeal the decision without Judge Motto’s agreeing to amend it to say there is substantial ground for a difference of opinion. They asked for the amendment and Judge Motto granted it, even though he disagreed that he’d found Brown had to confess to be rehabilitated.
“Nevertheless, the court finds that there exists no Pennsylvania appellate authority that has ever addressed a defendant’s right against self-incrimination in the context of a proceeding to decertify a criminal case to juvenile court,” Judge Motto wrote in his amendment.
The attorney general’s office is prosecuting the case because the Lawrence County District Attorney, Joshua Lamancusa, had a conflict of interest.