The justice system is not perfect. Sometimes innocent people get thrown behind bars because of prejudice or because of a mistake while collecting evidence. The same is true for murderers and criminals who get away with their heinous acts. But when a Pennsylvania court sentenced an 11-year-old boy to prison for murdering his father’s pregnant fiancé, they locked him up and threw away the key.
Jordan Brown has been rotting in prison for the last nine years. He is now a twenty-year-old man and still promises he did not commit the murder. So on Wednesday, the Pennsylvania court finally listened to him and overturned his conviction.
The state Supreme Court of Pennsylvania voted five to zero to clear Jordan Brown of any wrongdoing. It was not Brown who was responsible for killing 26-year-old Kenzie Houk, who was eight months pregnant at the time of her death. Her corpse was found at Brown’s family’s rural Pennsylvania farmhouse.
The state Supreme Court reversed the ruling that Brown was guilty of first-degree murder and the homicide of an unborn child. Prosecutors had never provided enough evidence to prove Brown’s guilt although he was found guilty in both the Lawrence County juvenile court and at the state appellate court level.
State Supreme Court justices found the evidence against the then 11-year-old boy to be insufficient to keep him locked up. For example, the shotgun kept in Brown’s bedroom, which was thought to be the murder weapon, could also “support an equally reasonable conclusion” that it was not the same gun that fired the killing shot.
Houk was found lying face down in a bed with a shotgun wound to the back of her head.
Brown’s attorney Kate Burdick said he maintained his innocence since the killing. And this overturning is “long overdue justice.”
“While we can’t give J.B. his childhood back, we are glad the Supreme Court has cleared his name so that he can move forward with a productive life,” Burdick said.
On the day Houk was killed, Jordan’s father, Chris Brown, left for work. Houk was with Jordan and her two daughters who were four and seven at the time. Jordan and Houk’s eldest daughter then left to catch the school bus.
The youngest girl found her mother dead in the pool of blood. Police searched for Houk’s ex-boyfriend, who often made threats. Two weeks before she died, her ex-boyfriend received results from a paternity test confirming that the youngest daughter was not his. The night before she died, he confronted Houk’s parents at a nightclub. The interaction got heated, and security forced him out of the place.
Jordan later told police that he noticed Houk’s ex-boyfriend’s pickup truck on the property when he went to school. They ignored him and never included the ex-boyfriend as a suspect.
Prosecution targeted Brown because he felt left out of the family. They also found gunshot residue on his clothing and other circumstantial evidence like a newly spent shotgun shell casing along the route he walked to the bus.