The USA this week avoided a potential violation of international law when a Pennsylvania court transferred a murder trial involving a 13-year-old boy to juvenile court, Amnesty International said today.
Jordan Brown previously faced trial in an adult court on charges of killing Kenzie Houk, his father’s pregnant fiancée in 2009, when he was 11 years old.
If convicted of first-degree murder in an adult court, he would have been sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, in violation of international law.
“Transferring Jordan Brown to juvenile court places him in a forum appropriate to his age,” said Natacha Mension of Amnesty International.
“Authorities across the USA should reflect on this decision. Sentencing children to life imprisonment without parole serves neither the public interest nor the best interests of the child.”
Brown was automatically charged in adult court in accordance with Pennsylvania law for murder cases. He was charged with two counts of homicide over the murder of his father’s fiancée and her unborn child.
Over the past 18 months, Amnesty International has campaigned in support of his lawyers’ appeals to have the trial transferred to a juvenile court.
Following the most recent transfer hearing on 5 August, the trial court concluded that moving Brown’s trial to a juvenile court serves the public interest. The court found that “the defendant is amenable to treatment, supervision and rehabilitation as a juvenile.”
He will remain in juvenile detention until his next court appearance and would remain within the jurisdiction of the juvenile justice system until he reaches the age of 21.
The USA and Somalia are the only countries in the world that have not ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which prohibits life imprisonment without parole for crimes committed before the age of 18.