Legal System Dilemma: 11-Year-Old Murder Suspect



Family handout of Marie Houk with her daughters Jenessa, left, and Adalynn in Wampum.

A pregnant mother of two was fatally shot in the back of the head in Pennsylvania. An 11-year-old boy is accused of the horror, caught in limbo between adult and juvenile courts, sitting in isolation in a county lockup, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Yeah, it’s enough to make me throw up,” said Lawrence County District Attorney John Bongivengo, prosecutor of the child who, in the eyes of the law, is an adult facing the most serious criminal charge on the books: two counts of premeditated homicide. Before a court can decide whether the child is guilty or the right measure of punishment, the justice system must decide what to do with the boy while his rights to due process are pursued. “I’m not necessarily sure that I want him sitting in jail while we figure all this out,” said Bongivengo.

Lawrence County Jail Warden Charles Adamo says the 10-foot-by-10-foot jail cell is not the right place for Jordan Brown, who is so small it’s tough to find prison garb to fit him. He will recommend that Jordan be moved to a juvenile facility, though, “There’s really no good place that I know of anywhere in Pennsylvania to put an 11-year-old.” Bongivengo dislikes the state law calling for “direct transfers,” which requires children 10 and older to be charged immediately as adults if they are suspected of homicide. Jordan could face life in prison if found guilty of first-degree murder.

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