Can Jordan Brown’s case finally move forward?
Jordan Brown was arrested on February 21, 2009 and charged with the murder of his father Chris’ pregnant fiancé, Kenzie Houk and her unborn child in Wampum, PA. He has now been detained for three years without having his case heard.
In early 2011, a petition was started by advocate Melissa Higgins to raise awareness for Jordan’s plight, pointing out, among other things, that his treatment was in direct violation of international law. Close to 4,000 people from around the world showed their support by signing the petition and bringing pressure to bear on Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly. It was successful.
In August of 2011, Judge Dominick Motto who had originally ruled Jordan would be tried as an adult, reversed his decision and he will, rightfully, now be tried as a juvenile.
His case has been in limbo since three Pittsburgh news outlets petitioned the court to have the trial remain open to public scrutiny.
On Tuesday, in her 33 page opinion, Superior Court Judge Jacqueline Shogan ruled that the yet to be scheduled trial for Jordan will remain closed to the public and consequently the media, much to the chagrin of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the New Castle News and their attorneys.
Part of the ruling stated “denial of public access to the juvenile proceedings at hand serves an important government interest” because “under the facts of the case, there is no alternative short of closure of the juvenile court proceedings which will adequately serve the privacy interests of Jordan.”
The media had argued that preliminary hearings had been open and therefore all subsequent hearings should remain that way. What they fail to understand is that initially Jordan was to be tried as an adult, thereby giving the public access to his pretrial hearings. Their claims that since much of the case had already been aired in public, it should remain that way, are unfounded.
The media’s actions in this matter have been reprehensible. At no time have they showed any concern for Jordan’s well being, made evident by injecting themselves into the case for nothing more than a selfish need to increase circulation of their respective publications.
The objectivity of certain journalists from the aforementioned media (and their editors) has been found wanting since they began reporting on the case and very few have maintained any semblance of journalistic integrity or ethical behavior in that regard.
Jonathan D. Silver’s erroneous complaint that “the information blackout could be so complete that the public might not be able to learn when and whether a hearing has occurred, much less the outcome” is a nonsense which typifies the irresponsible coverage of Jordan’s case from certain quarters.
Frederick N. Frank, attorney for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, was quoted as saying “We are disappointed that the Superior Court did not recognize the right of the Post-Gazette to cover this important case under the Constitutional and common law presumption of openness of judicial proceedings”. My suggestion to Fred would be for him to appraise himself of the law as it reads with regard to this matter and the case.
Dennis Elisco, one of Jordan’s attorneys, quite rightly stated “I think it was the right result. It was the result most of us expected. It’s a huge step in the right direction, which is to get the case tried.” So very true.
As yet, no statement has been issued as to whether Judge Shogan’s decision will be appealed by the three media outlets. They have thirty days in which to do so.