13-year-old Jordan Brown at risk of life imprisonment without parole in the USA

*Posted on behalf of Frances*

Amnesty International continues its campaign calling on the prosecution to drop its pursuit of trial in an adult court for 13-year-old Jordan Brown. Jordan Brown is accused of murdering his father's girlfriend while aged 11 years old. If convicted of first-degree murder in an adult court he will automatically be sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. 

This sentence, when imposed on anyone who was under 18 years old at the time, violates international law standards which are almost universally accepted around the world. These emphasize that when children come into conflict with the law, the primary objectives should be the child's best interests and the potential for his or her successful reintegration into society. Life imprisonment without parole clearly is inconsistent with this international obligation. The USA is believed to stand alone sentencing children to life without parole. Although several countries technically permit the practice, Amnesty International knows of no cases outside the U.S. where such a sentence has been imposed in recent years. Jordan Brown is the youngest person known to Amnesty International who is currently at risk of being sentenced to life without parole. However, there are at least 2,500 people in the US serving a life sentence, without the possibility of parole, for crimes committed when they were under 18. Jordan Brown's case is therefore starkly illustrative of a wider problem.

Please read the full details below and take action by writing to the state Attorney General.

Jordan Brown is accused of shooting his father's girlfriend Kenzie Houk, when he was just 11 years old. He has automatically been charged for train in an adult court. He has been charged with 2 counts of homicide because Kenzie Houk was eight and a half months pregnant and her unborn child also died. If convicted of first degree murder, he will be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.

On 29 March 2010, a judge denied a petition filed by Jordan Brown's lawyers for transfer of the trial to juvenile court. His lawyers appealed this decision in the Pennsylvania Superior COurt, which granted review of the appeal. The state Attorney General filed his written arguments on 29 November 2010, in which he defended the original decision to try Jordan in an adult court. On 25 January 2011, oral arguments from both the state Attorney General and Jordan Brown's lawyers will be heard. Amnesty International is deeply concerned that the Attorney General may continue to seek an adult trial for Jordan Brown.

In 1992, the US ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 14(4) of the ICCPR specifically acknowledges the need for special treatment of children in the criminal justice system and emphasises the importance of their rehabilitation. In 2006, the UN Human Rights Committee, the expert body established by the ICCPR to oversee implementation of the treaty, reminded the USA that sentencing children to life imprisonment without parole is incompatible with the ICCPR.


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