PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The Pennsylvania Supreme Court must decide if a Pennsylvania teen should get a new trial in the death of his father's pregnant fiancee, who was fatally shot with a youth-model shotgun when he was 11.
Jordan Brown, now 16, has been in juvenile detention since being charged in the 2009 shooting deaths of Kenzie Houk and her unborn son in a case that made headlines because of both its chilling nature and the laws governing juvenile homicide suspects.
An appeals court had overturned the juvenile court judge who initially found him delinquent, calling the verdict "plainly contrary to the evidence." Prosecutors appealed, leading to the high court arguments Wednesday.
Defense lawyer Dennis Elisco called the murder probe inadequate. He argued that investigators never searched the snowy yard for footprints, or explored what might have happened after Brown went to school that day.
There was a 45-minute gap between the time when the boy boarded a school bus and tree-trimmers discovered the crime scene.
"I guess something could have happened, but we don't have any evidence of it," Chief Deputy Attorney General James Barker told the justices.
Houk was shot in the back of the head with the boy's youth model shotgun. A shell case was found on the long driveway between the house and the road, where the school bus picked the boy up.
The shooting occurred after the boy's father left for work. Houk's two daughters, ages 7 and 4, were also in the house.
"No one, including police, even looked for footprints around the property," Elisco argued Wednesday. "I don't see any other remedy except the grant of a new trial."
The case led to two Superior Court appeals, the first of which resulted in the case being moved to juvenile court; the second was an unsuccessful attempt by three western Pennsylvania newspapers to open the trial to the public even though Lawrence County Judge John Hodge had the discretion to close the case because Brown was under 12 when the killings occurred.
The court did not indicate when it would rule.