Juvenile Law Center, along with private attorneys David Acker and Dennis Elisco, filed this brief in the Superior Court of Pennsylvania on behalf of Jordan Brown, an eleven-year-old charged with the murder of his pregnant stepmother. The trial court denied Jordan’s decertification motion (transfer back from the adult criminal system to the juvenile justice system), holding that in order to demonstrate his amenability to treatment within the juvenile system, he had to first take responsibility for the offense. If convicted in the adult system, Jordan would have been the youngest person in the country to receive a mandatory life without parole sentence. Juvenile Law Center’s brief argued that the trial court’s interpretation of the transfer statute (42 Pa.C.S. § 6322), which essentially required Jordan’s confession in order to find amenability, was in violation of Jordan’s right against self-incrimination and rights to due process and fundamental fairness under both the Pennsylvania and United States Constitutions.
An amicus brief in support of Jordan was filed by the Campaign for Youth Justice, Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth and attorneys from Baker & McKenzie, who argued that the trial court failed to consider developmental research confirming that children are more amenable to treatment and rehabilitation than adults. The brief also provided a historical overview of the Pennsylvania juvenile justice system and demonstrated that the juvenile system is better equipped to try Jordan and provide rehabilitation and treatment to Jordan if found delinquent. Finally, amici argued that there is consensus among other states and the international community that disfavors trying youth as young as Jordan as adults.
The Superior Court of Pennsylvania agreed that the trial court’s application and interpretation of the transfer statute violated Jordan’s right against self-incrimination, vacated the trial court’s order and remanded for a new decertification hearing. On August 23, 2011, the trial court granted Jordan’s motion to have his case transferred to juvenile court.
The case is awaiting trial in juvenile court.
On May 8, 2013, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania issued its Opinion which vacated the juvenile court’s dispositional order and remanded the case for further proceedings. In its conclusion, the Opinion stated “…we conclude that J.B.’s weight of evidence claim is meritorious, in that the juvenile court committed a palpable abuse of discretion in rendering a ruling contrary to the evidence of the record.”