Moral Low Ground

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11-Year-Old Pennsylvania Boy Faces Life in Prison without Parole

January 26, 2011 by Brett Wilkins in Crime & Punishment with 3 Comments

A 13-year-old Pennsylvania boy faces life in prison with no chance of parole for allegedly killing his father’s pregnant fiancee when he was just 11 years old. If convicted and sentenced, he would be the youngest person in the entire world to face such punishment.

Jordan Brown allegedly shot 26-year-old Kenzie Houk in the back of her head while she was sleeping with a children’s shotgun in February 2009.  Houk was just two weeks away from giving birth to a baby boy. Both died. After the shooting, Jordan  allegedly got on the school bus and attended elementary school as if nothing had happened. Prosecutors claim the killing was premeditated. They also found residue from Jordan’s gun on his shoulder.

The United States is the only country in the world where children are sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. Only the US and Somalia have refused to sign on to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which bans life sentences without possibility for parole for all juveniles under the age of 18.

Pennsylvania’s laws are extraordinarily harsh, even by American standards. Child homicide suspects in the Keystone State are automatically tried as adults, unless a judge decides otherwise. There are currently about 450 children in Pennsylvania and 2,400 in the entire US who will die behind bars if convicted.

WTAE in Pittsburgh reports the judge’s decision to try Jordan Brown as an adult was based on his refusal to take responsibility for the shooting. But in the United States, all defendants are innocent until proven guilty. They are also protected  against self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution.

Human rights groups are protesting Brown’s unusual treatment as an adult. “It is shocking that anyone this young could face life imprisonment without parole, let alone in a country which labels itself as a progressive force for human rights,” Susan Lee of Amnesty International told Britain’s Guardian.

A Superior Court panel in Pittsburgh will now decide whether Jordan Brown will be tried as a juvenile or an adult. The victim’s mother wants the toughest possible sentence. “He knew what he was doing,” she told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “He killed my baby.” The boy’s father, on the other hand, says Jordan is innocent and is clueless as to the gravity of his situation. “Try to explain to a 12-year-old what the rest of your life means,” he told ABC News last year. “It’s incomprehensible to him.”

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3 Comments

  1. FranziskaJanuary 27, 2011 at 1:00 amReply

    Shocking! I am asking myself, what a children shotgun is? Do you mean they sell functional weapons in children size in America? That would just be too crazy….

  2. Moral Low GroundJanuary 27, 2011 at 7:53 amReplyAuthor

    Yes, they do. Millions of child-sized guns are sold every year in America. Here is a list of various children’s guns: http://www.ocshooters.com/Gen/kidshooting/youth-firearms.htm
    This site does make a good point that guns for kids isn’t automatically a bad idea; many children are training in target shooting sports and have dreams of being Olympic shooters. Non-violent shooting sports for kids who are properly trained and supervised are a better way for kids to spend their time then sitting on their asses playing video games and eating junk food. They teach discipline, safety and hone specialized skills. Kids can’t buy guns for themselves until they reach the age of 16. While deep inside I would prefer a gun-free society, especially for our youth, non-violent shooting sports are a legitimate pursuit that kids who participate in should be very proud of themselves.

  3. FranziskaJanuary 28, 2011 at 12:38 amReply

    Thanks for the info. I agree, any kind of sport is great for children. Nevertheless I still think that target shooting sport shouldn’t be on that list. I think they should always have a certain respect for guns and what guns are capeable of, but when they use the guns for sport, they lose this respect for guns. Maybe another part in them is not developed enough to know the effects of using guns the wrong way and then we have the disaster…. But then again, even adults don’t reach that state of mind sometimes 😉

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