Exonerated Jordan Brown looks to move on with life, father says
Less than a week after the state Supreme Court overturned Jordan Brown’s murder conviction, ending years of appeals, his father said the family hopes to put the past decade behind them and move on with their lives.
“It’s something I wouldn’t wish upon any parent out there,” Chris Brown said Monday as he was flanked by his son and their attorneys at a news conference in Beaver County. “It’s been a long road.”
Last Wednesday’s 5-0 ruling by the state’s highest court clears Jordan Brown, 20, of wrongdoing in the 2009 shooting death of his father’s fiancee Kenzie Houk, who was 26 and eight months pregnant. Authorities said Houk was lying in bed when she was shot in the back of the head with a shotgun.
Jordan Brown, who was 11 at the time, was initially charged as an adult. Last week’s decision reversed a finding by a juvenile court judge in Lawrence County and upheld by a state appellate court that Brown was guilty of first-degree murder and homicide of an unborn child.
Chris Brown said the ruling brought mixed emotions.
“It was kind of bittersweet, so to speak,” he said. ”(I was) overwhelmed with joy but still full of sorrow knowing that we won’t have closure in the loss.”
Chris Brown said the family’s main goal is to move forward, even though he said his son, who has spent nearly half his life in the court system, lost his childhood.
“Can you get that back? That’s the question,” he said. “I think the answer, in short, is ‘no.’ But I think what matters most is moving on from this day forward and what you do from this day on.”
Jordan Brown has been out of jail for several years during the appeal process. He will begin his sophomore year at an unspecified college in the fall, where he is majoring in computer science, his attorney, Dennis Elisco, said.
Clad in a gray suit, shirt and tie, Jordan Brown, who will be 21 in August, did not speak to members of the media at the suggestion of his attorneys.
In the 47-page opinion overturning the conviction, justices attacked the evidence used to convict Jordan Brown, noting, among other things, that Houk’s 7-year-old daughter was in the home with her stepbrother all morning and told police that she did not see or hear anything out of the ordinary that morning.
Chris Brown said he was disappointed that it has taken so long for such a decision.
“At the end of the day, if anything positive should come of this, I hope it’s that maybe the higher ups take a look at this juvenile system and how broken it is,” he said.
Elisco, Jordan Brown’s attorney from the start of the case, called the Supreme Court’s decision the end of a journey.
“It ended in a way that is just, fair and long, long overdue,” he said. “We are proud with the result that we obtained. We are heartbroken for the loss. We are mystified as to why the true killer has not been investigated or apprehended.”
He called the charges against Jordan Brown and the ensuing trial a rush to judgment. Both Elisco and Chris Brown called on police to reopen the investigation.
“It’s not our job to investigate, and there are people involved in this case that are sworn to investigate,” Chris Brown said. “I would just hope that they would do that. I would hope they would open the case and pursue the actual murderer who, by the way, has been walking the streets for nine years.”