PA Supreme Court 3

Chris Brown left Wednesday’s hearing before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court with a headache and his head spinning. Apparently (as surmised from the justices’ questions), an obscure and technical procedure called Rule 620 was more important to the court than the question of whether Pennsylvania is capable of rendering justice in the case of Jordan Brown.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court was asked whether Jordan should get a new trial in the death of Kenzie Houk and her unborn son. Jordan, now 16, has been in juvenile detention since being charged hours after the 2009 shooting incident. An appeals court threw out the juvenile court verdict, calling it “plainly contrary to the evidence,” and sent the case back to a Lawrence County judge. State prosecutors appealed, leading to the high court arguments Wednesday.

From a layman’s perspective, it appears that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is avoiding the basic question of whether the state has proven Jordan’s guilt. Instead, it is focusing on whether Rule 620 (a flawed and ambiguous law) should have even landed the “hot potato” of justice for Jordan Brown on its doorstep (or for that matter, on the Superior Court’s in Pittsburgh).

As best I can tell, Rule 620 is an optional post-dispositional motion that can be filed by the defense, stating its disagreement with a judge’s decision, and preserving the defense’s issues with that decision for appeal. In an adult trial, a 620 motion is to be filed after a jury trial; after a bench trial in juvenile proceedings, a 620 motion is optional. As you recall, there was no jury involved in rendering a decision of “responsible” in Jordan’s juvenile trial, only a judge. A motion was not filed under Rule 620 because a jury was not involved and it seemed highly unlikely that Judge Hodge would reverse his ruling simply because the defense did not agree with it. Instead, the defense filed a motion under Rule 1925 of the Juvenile Appellate Procedure stating with great specificity why Judge Hodge’s ruling abused his discretion in ruling against the weight of the evidence presented by the Commonwealth.

Even though the Superior Court ruled that the 620 rule did not apply and that the defense had not waived its right to appeal Judge Hodge’s decision, the state has persisted in its contention that Rule 620 is a legal loophole that should allow the Supreme Court to evade its responsibility for assuring that justice be given to Jordan Brown.

Rule 620 is beside the point, a cynical diversion. What the people want is an honest, impartial authority to look at the evidence collected by police and determine once and for all whether it says that Jordan can be held responsible for this crime or cleared of it. Defense attorney Dennis Elisco was unable to argue any points of evidence except that the Pennsylvania State Police had failed to collect perimeter snow-footprint evidence which may have cleared Jordan as a suspect in the murders. In focusing on this obscure technicality, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court seems to be side-stepping its responsibility to the people and assuring that every citizen in Pennsylvania can be guaranteed justice.

But maybe 620 is a narrow issue with which the Supreme Court is humoring the Attorney General’s office before throwing the case back to the lower court. Remember, Jordan Brown’s quest for justice is a hot potato case.

Lawyer Dennis Elisco has more faith in the Supreme Court’s ability to render a fair decision than layman Chris Brown. The two of them are looking at the same evidence, which is the preponderance of the justices’ questions. This will be a real nail-biter to see which man is right. We will know the answer to this question only when the high court issues its decision. The court did not indicate when it would rule.

Is the Pennsylvania Supreme Court a bought political entity or a fair arbiter of what is right?

We will know this only indirectly by whether or not the court buys the state’s argument about the applicability of Rule 620 to Jordan’s case.


Groove of the Day

Listen to Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers performing “Waiting Is The Hardest Part”


4 Responses to “justice?”

  1. 1 Marie
    March 14, 2014 at 7:58 pm

    I am not surprised by the diversion of rule 620 that the prosecution is holding on to so tightly. After all, they had the juvenile judge in their pocket. I am sure they were not prepared for yet another win by the defense on yet another appeal. The prosecution needs a diversion, a loose decision, a “loop hole”, to prevent the truth from coming out. They are banking on a couple “law abiding” justices to focus in on rule 620 and forget about the constitution. They are that full of themselves.

    The prosecution is working much like a magician. They have the (abuse of) power to come up with things that do not exist. It started with an illegal interrogation of a child at a school, as they masked it as an “informational interview”. Where did that police investigator go anyway? She just disappeared. Then it was a blue blanket that muffled the sound of the gun that later disappeared from their vocabulary because it came back clean. Then we have the snow. It has the ability to cover cars but not footsteps. They also escaped the need for fingerprinting the crime scene or the need to check other areas of the home for footprints. They pulled a Houdini and got away with not looking for other possible suspects, when they even had a taped T.V. interview shortly after the victim was found dead with her own father saying she “had some problems with some people”. The deceased protective orders of the x-boyfriend were non-existent to the investigation. The paternity results that came back a week before the she was shot, invisible. Yet the prosecution has the face to come back after five years with a comment from their chief prosecutor Barker who is quoted in the paper as saying, “I suppose that something else could have happened but we have no evidence of it”. Really.? And he has no shame in that comment.?

    These magicians have played this card time and time again. Now it rule 620. Had the defense used it, they would have argued against rule 1925. This voodoo magic, it was catchy too for a while. There would be die hart journalist looking to catch the reader by putting the most horrendous titles on their newspaper articles . They exploited an 11 year old child like he was an adult in shameful manners, that I still have a hard time accepting to this day. I would read many comments from people who expressed their disgust for how the prosecutor was treating the case, and low and behold, even those comments would disappear.

    I use to be discouraged after every loss and later found some relief when the defense would win another appeal. I would get discouraged by the long time the judge and courts would take to answer motions and appeals. I have even grown a little disgusted by the system, it’s abusive in permitting so much time to lapse in decision making. It is abusive and unwarranted. I have written to Jordan and encouraged him to let this whole case be the change in his life for a great future. I have told this to his father also. My weariness is no more as I am certain God has his hand in this case. We permit too much abuse in the legal system when it comes to children. God is using this case for a reason. Change is a coming.

  2. 2 Gloria
    March 17, 2014 at 10:28 am

    Oral arguments before the Supreme Court….scroll to march 12 part 1


  3. 3 Jeanne
    March 19, 2014 at 11:02 pm

    Ok. I have a little headache after watching the supreme court hearing.

    What I got was that it almost makes no sense to file the “opiobal” 620 becaJustin’s highly unlikely that the judge will change his own ruling. Therefore, the defense filed the 1925 rule which is required, not “optional”. The prosecution feels there is an order of filing that was ignored, therefore they want the court to keep the original “dilinquent” ruling by the judge in place. The problem here is the rule is so ambigiuos that the supreme court itself, appears to have a problem with the prosection’s argument, greatly in part due to the fact that we are talking about a juvenile who was 11 years old. I personally cannot see the prosection winning this argument when the remedy that is most fair, is a new trial as well as addressing the various interpretations of rule 620 for future cases. However, it is ridiculous to waste time and file a 620 in a juvenile bench trial with only a judge responding to his own opinion. That would permit blatant abuse of children.?

    I also get the feeling there was an valid argument regarding sufficiency but this part confused me. The bottom line, I gather, is that the poor investigation carries so much weight in the end, that yes, the outcome may have been different and a child’s life may have never been disrupted to such a degree.

  4. 4 Jeanne
    March 19, 2014 at 11:09 pm

    Sorry couple typos from IPhone above.

    We can never permit negligent investigations when children are involved. How dare the prosector prompt procedural technicalities in light of the superior court ruling!!!

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