Posts Tagged ‘former Lawrence County Prosecutor John Bongivengo

24
Mar
11

esprit de corps

One of the most mystifying things about the Jordan Brown case is why the police never seriously pursued an investigation of Kenzie Houk’s former boyfriend Adam Harvey, the only character in this whole sordid affair with a known motive for seeing Kenzie dead.

It was Adam Harvey, after all, who had been engaged in a bitter paternity and child-support battle with Kenzie and who, after paying for the support of Kenzie’s youngest daughter Adalynn for years, discovered through DNA testing that Adalynn is not his daughter afterall—and that Kenzie had not been honest with him in more ways than one.

She had cheated him of his money and cheated on him by sleeping with another man. That’s blood-boiling, seeing-red motive. Why would the police ignore it?

And it was Adam Harvey who was the object of not one, but two PFA (protection from abuse) orders taken out against him by Kenzie in 2006 and 2008. These documents are public record and surely would have been accessed as a first step in any honest police investigation. Why then could the police overlook key statements made by Kenzie herself that:

(From the 2008 PFA regarding a February 3, 2008 incident)

“ADAM CALLED MY MOTHERS AND THREATENED TO TAKE MY WHOLE FAMILY OUT WHEN HE COMES TO TOWN. HE HAS LEFT SEVERAL MESSAGES THREATENING TO HURT ME AND MY FAMILY. I AM IN FEAR OF HIM HURTING ME PHYSICALLY OR MY FAMILY. HE HAS A DRINKING PROBLEM THAT IS UNCONTROLLABLE. HE HAS THREATENED TO HIRE SOMEONE TO HURT ME SEVERAL TIMES. I HAVE BEEN TALKING TO SHENANGO POLICE AND THEY LISTENED TO THE MESSAGE ON MY MOTHERS CELL PHONE AND SUGGESTED TO ME TO GET A PFA.”

(emphasis added)

(And from the 2006 PFA regarding a May 26, 2006 incident)

“WE WERE ARGUING REGARDING MY NEICE THEN ADAM AND I STARTED TO ARGUE. I SAID SHUT UP AND ACT LIKE THE ADULT AND HE CAME INTO THE HOUSE WHERE I WAS COOKING AND THREW THE FOOD OUTSIDE AND STARTED TO ARGUE AGAIN. HE THEN THREATENED ME. I WENT TO LEAVE IN MY CAR AND HE TOOK THE KEYS; THREW THEM AT ME AND PUSHED ME AGAINST THE STEERING WHEEL. HE LEFT A BIG BRUISE ON MY FOREARM. ADAM ABUSES ALCOHOL AND DRINKS DAILY. HIS BROTHER SHOWED UP AND THREATENED ME AND THEY BOTH LEFT WHEN THE POLICE ARRIVED. THE POLICE SUGGESTED I GET A PFA.”

Elsewhere on the same form, Kenzie cited the following as prior incidents of abuse that Adam had allegedly committed against her: ”MENTAL ABUSE; THREATENING TO KILL ME OR HAVE ME KILLED BY HIS FRIENDS IN HILLSVILLE.

(emphasis added in both quotes)

Now, let us consider the timing of the murders in relation to Adam’s discovery from the DNA evidence that Kenzie had played him for a royal fool. According to what Chris Brown has told me, Adam discovered Kenzie’s infidelity and deception only a week or two before she and the baby were murdered. There was not even an opportunity for Adam to cool off. He must have still been boiling with rage on February 20th.

So why were the police so quick to dismiss Adam Harvey as a suspect? The police say that even though he’d returned to Newcastle from where he’d been living and working in North Carolina, Adam had a “solid alibi” on the morning of the murders because he was sleeping at his parents’ home on Boston Avenue and his truck was surrounded by newly-fallen snow. There were no tire tracks when the police arrived, and his father vouched for him.

Yet given his relationships with lowlife friends (and at least one family member who had threatened Kenzie), Adam certainly had the opportunity to hire someone or otherwise arrange with somebody to have Kenzie killed. His background report says he earns between $50,000 and $75,000 a year—so he probably had the means to pay. Everyone knows that such arrangements leave no snow tracks. Given the victim’s own assertion and belief that Adam could have hired a surrogate to do the hit, the police characterization of Adam’s alibi as “solid” is, by any reasonable judgment, an overstatement to say the least.

Why would the police have been so quick to back off?

And remember, more than a year ago Jordan’s lawyers received a tip that Adam had tearfully admitted to a friend at a party, “I killed my old girlfriend,” and this tip was passed on to police in writing—though more than a month later Trooper Jeffrey Martin, who was heading up the murder investigation, denied to reporters any knowledge of this letter which had been addressed to him. So what was really going on? Why did Trooper Martin apparently lie?

It was a mystery to me until last night when a reader sent me a clue which suggests there is much more to this story than one sees on the surface. This clue is an example of how eventually, given enough time and digging, the whole true story will eventually be revealed.

This reader’s e-mail began: “When they run into problems, sons of fathers with status are kept out of the news and courts. But I’ve never seen it at the expense of an eleven year old boy.

“This guy, who is in his sixties and lives at the same address as Adam J. Harvey (ex-boyfriend of Kenzie), is most  probably his father. If he is, take a look at who he is:

Detachment Listing and Detachment Officers / Department of Pennsylvania

Marine Corps League

http://www.pamcleague.org/mcldetoff.htm

New Castle Marines #788  (4/01/09)

Commandant: Charles Harvey / 506 Boston Ave / New Castle, Pa 16101 / (724) 654-7309

Sr. Vice Commandant: Ronald E. Jones / 1600 Grove Ave / New Castle PA 16101 / (724) 658-5448

Jr. Vice Commandant: David L. Thomas / 426 Fairgreen Ave / New Castle PA 16101 / (724) 654-1178

Judge Advocate: John P. Wherthey / 2414 Anne Dr / New Castle PA 16105 / (724) 652-7901

Jr. Past Commandant: Claude D.Shorts / 109 Germanski La / New Castle, PA 16102 / (724) 667-9422; Dan Chuey 132 S. Myers Ave / Sharon PA 16146 / (724) 699-6872

Adjutant: Richard W. Nonnemacher / 1201 Highland Ave, Apt #1 / New Castle PA 16105-2645 / (724) 657-8746

Paymaster: Gerald F. Kern / 414 E. Moody Ave / New Castle PA 16105 / (724) 652-4371

Chaplain: Emmett W. Shaffer / 315 Jones St / New Castle PA 16101 / (724) 652-9245

Sergeant-at-Arms: Fred Humphries / Conner School Road / Wampum PA 16157 / (724) 535-7243

“Now I understand why the police were so quick to accept the feeble alibi and drop Adam Harvey as a suspect. It may also explain why the media comments in PA are so negative; why the justice system in Newcastle is denying Jordan his rights; why Melissa had her posts on Topix deleted; why I had unusual difficulty–several times–posting to CBS Local Pittsburgh in response to a poster called “Dallas” who was knowledgeable, smooth, and polite—but adamant beyond reason considering his education (IMO), that Jordan was guilty. This news would explain much of what is happening to Jordan,” he said.

“It looks like the police and prosecution were not inept but something much worse.”

These are the reader’s conclusions, not mine. However, he has aroused my curiosity enough that I have initiated background checks on everyone connected with this Marine Corps League chapter. We will be looking for any connections whatsoever to the police, prosecutors, and other authorities in Lawrence County. We are using databases not available to the public and our cybersleuths and other investigators will keep digging until we discover the truth about exactly how this blatant miscarriage of justice has been engineered.

In time the truth will come out and any persons who are accessories to the murders and to the framing of an innocent child will be held to account. (Neither one is an insignificant crime, but a serious felony involving prison time.) If anyone knows something they are hiding, this is their last chance to come forward and avoid more serious consequences for themselves and their loved ones.

The Marines’ famous slogan is “Semper Fidelis” (Always Faithful), and signifies the dedication and loyalty that individual Marines have for “Corps and Country”, even after leaving the service. It is easy to see how loyalty between Marine veterans could become so personal that loyalty to Country, its laws and ideals, could become lost among drinking buddies—and we do know from the long line of DUI convictions in the public record that Charles Harvey and his sons have been heavy drinkers.

Now is the time for some sober reflection. This absurd story has played out far too long. It is time for grunts and civilians alike to be faithful to the truth and restore justice in Western Pennsylvania.

It’s time to wake up and heed what a wise champion of freedom named Voltaire once said: “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”

۞

Groove of the Day

Listen to the Angels performing “My Boyfriend’s Back”

12
Mar
11

a ruling at last

Chris Brown called me last night. “Are you sitting down?” he asked. “The Superior Court ruling went in our favor.”

The State Superior Court waited until the end of the business day Friday to announce its ruling that Judge Motto’s earlier decision denying Jordan’s decertification as a juvenile based on Jordan’s failure to admit to the murders or express remorse did indeed deny Jordan’s Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. The court remanded Jordan Brown’s decertification hearing back to the Lawrence County Common Pleas Court where Judge Dominick Motto will have another chance to get it right. This time he will not be permitted to consider the prosecution’s bogus argument that Jordan is not amenable to rehabilitation because he will not admit to a crime he did not commit or express remorse for alleged actions he never took.

I guess my reaction to this good news was not what Chris had been expecting. He had been high-fiving it with everyone since hearing the news.

“But what will you guys do when the prosecution argues that the seriousness of the crime demands an adult trial? Motto has already shown that he’s amenable to irrational reasoning. It’s inevitable that the prosecution will roll out the ‘adult crime, adult time’ argument. What if Motto’s ego prevents him from admitting he was wrong and he still rules against Jordan being tried as a juvenile?”

There was dead silence. “Hello, Chris, are you still there?”

He was.

Chris reminded me that we had satisfied all the statutory requirements for Jordan to have been decertified as a juvenile. He reminded me that Motto’s earlier ruling that Jordan would be tried as an adult rested entirely on the prosecution’s novel and erroneous argument that rehabilitation is impossible unless someone admits to a crime before guilt is even established or proved.

“Well, maybe this Superior Court ruling will give Motto the political cover to claim that his hands are tied, and he will do what he should have done in the first place,” I allowed.

We once again returned to high-five territory. It was wonderful hearing joy in Chris’ voice after two years of discouragement. I did not persist with my wet-blanket questions. I did not say that I have lost all faith in Motto’s integrity, and that I believe the judge is himself not amenable to rehabilitation.

(The next hearing will be held, maybe within just a few weeks, to determine whether Jordan will be tried as a juvenile or as an adult.)

I hope I’m wrong about Motto. Maybe the next hearing will go our way. I let Chris get back to his happy calls and to a well-deserved night of celebration.

۞

Groove of the Day

Listen to Kool & The Gang performing “Celebration”

27
Jan
11

box of sand

Last night JC posted a comment to January 25th‘s “Oral Arguments” asking if there is a chance that Jordan Brown will be acquitted and the short answer is “Yes, eventually.”

But I emphasize “eventually.” The scandalous thing about this case is that there is, from Jordan’s perspective, no short answer. He has already spent 15% of his life in captivity, and his case has not even gone to trial. If this case drags out for another year, he will have spent more than 20% of his life in jail for something he didn’t do.

Now here is the really perverse thing: there is no incentive for the Neanderthal State to give Jordan a speedy trial. The longer the state can drag this out, the better it is for them—win or lose.

When Jordan was snatched out of his bed in the middle of the night and thrown into an adult jail, he was a little kid whose feet dangled above the floor when he sat in a chair. Now his feet touch the floor, and he’s forty pounds heavier. If the state can drag this out long enough, he’ll be shaving by the time he comes to trial. He won’t look so small and innocent. He will have been hardened by his contact with young criminals. He will just look more like someone who could have committed a crime, whether he really did or not.

Even if the state loses, it is better for some of the players if this happens in the distant future and not now or soon. Why? Because the Neanderthals have been pursuing their persecution of this child without any evidence that he committed these heinous murders.

All along the prosecutors have claimed there is “solid” or “strong” evidence that is the basis of their case against Jordan. But they have never shown us the evidence. They’ve only claimed they have it, and they have been making this claim up until the present day.

Example from an October 1, 2009 statement as reported in the media: “The prosecution argued that Brown had gunshot residue on his shoulder…” Do you know how much gunshot residue was found on the shoulder of his shirt? Only one particle where there should have been thousands! “…and that his youth shotgun—found in the boy’s bedroom—smelled as if it had been recently fired.” Well, yes, the shotgun had been fired the day before the murder and Jordan had not cleaned it. But the prosecution has never admitted that the shotgun was not, and could not have been, the murder weapon. The prosecution’s own “strong evidence” shows that the entry wound was too small for the cause of death to have been a shotgun blast. There were too few pellets recovered from Kenzie’s wound and from the crime scene for it to have been a shotgun death. A handgun loaded with a shotshell was the murder weapon. This is the only conclusion to be drawn from the physical evidence the state actually has.

If Jordan had used his shotgun as the police and prosecutors have claimed, he should have been covered from head to foot with gunpowder residue, as well as blood and brains—but he was not. Kenzie’s face should have been horribly disfigured, but it was not. A Houk family relative claimed to me that there had been postmortem facial reconstruction so there could have been an open-casket funeral, but I learned that this was a lie. The funeral director expressed surprise that no such reconstruction was necessary.

Much has been made by the prosecution of a supposed threat by Jordan to “pop” Kenzie and her daughters—a claim carefully examined by Kenzie herself and found not to have been credible. The source of this fantastic claim was a Houk family member who is a convicted felon and purported drug dealer. How much credence should be given to his story? According to Kenzie (who should surely have known better than any of us): “None.”

Another example from a February 23, 2009 media report: “The blue blanket, which has a quarter-sized hole that appeared to be singed from a shotgun blast, supports a claim that the crime was premeditated, Lawrence County District Attorney John Bongivengo said. ‘The operating theory is that he covered the gun with the blanket to hide it when he came downstairs’ from his bedroom to shoot Houk, who was in a first-floor bedroom, Bongivengo said.” How much gunpowder residue—or blood and brains—did the state crime lab find on the blanket? None. The hole in the blanket proved to have been nothing more than an old cigarette burn.

And yet this same blue blanket appears prominently in a third late-night police interview of Jenessa Houk, Jordan’s 7-year-old stepsister who had given police two previous interviews earlier in the day which did not implicate Jordan in any way. The crime lab’s analysis of the blue blanket provides strong evidence that Janessa’s third interview was most likely coerced and manipulated by the police interviewer Trooper Janice Wilson, who has since retired from the state police.

The state has been lying all along about the strength of its evidence, and it is in the state’s interest that the evidence not be shown for what it is (or should I say “isn’t”?) until all the liars are retired and long gone and sipping Piña Coladas on some distant island beach.

This pattern of deception reminds me of a story I read long ago about El Cid, who left a heavy box as collateral with money lenders he tapped in order to pay his troops. The money lenders believed that the locked box contained gold, but when El Cid was long gone they discovered that the box was filled with sand.

Isn’t it time that we ask the state to open its box of evidence and show us what it does in fact contain? There have been enough lies and misrepresentations. A young child’s life is being wasted away to benefit the careers of dishonest adults.

Open the box now and let in the light!

۞

Groove of the Day

Listen to the Broadway Cast of “Hair” performing “Let the Sunshine In”

26
Jan
11

heartbroken

For the past three days I have been keeping a vigil for our poor henpecked bird. She has not moved and is just barely alive. She is nearly motionless in her box, surrounded by food and water, the wounds on her lacerated back dressed with ointment. I have not seen her take any water or nourishment.

She seems to have lost all will to live. Her tormentors have broken her. It may seem strange to say, but at a deep level I have been imagining what it must be like for her to have been nearly pecked to death. The thing which has most impressed and saddened me is the relentlessness of her sisters’ attacks. I truly believe the poor bird is heartbroken.

It is against the background of this fowl drama that I have been following young Paul Henry’s travails at Pendleton, where he has been the target of numerous small torments from his so-called “peers.” I spent a chunk of the morning yesterday writing him a letter of encouragement that built on Derek’s advice (see January 20’s “Only the Strong Survive”).

Unlike the poor hen who seems to have abandoned all hope, Paul Henry seems to be rallying his strength and courage. His mother visited him last evening, and I am looking forward to receiving a report from her this morning. I am finding this quality of information is so helpful in intuiting what Paul Henry is experiencing and matching the most appropriate support and services to his current situation.

As an advocate, I have never before experienced so high a degree of cooperation from all of the people in such a child’s life (both past and present), and I am astonished at all the things we have been able to accomplish in less than three weeks. These new and improved working methods bode well not only for Paul Henry, but for many future kids as well.

Besides the bonds that have been created with his parents, the most important relationship is that which has been established with Paul Henry’s new lawyer Monica Foster. Most lawyers have an aversion to using public information as a strategic defense of their clients. They tend to avoid the media in a flawed attempt to limit the action to whatever happens in the courtroom. In a court of law, the lawyers have the illusion of control because they alone understand the arcane workings of the law. But as we have seen in Pennsylvania, this approach can have disastrous results. 

While Jordan’s defense attorneys remained clammed up, the prosecution had a heyday promulgating its sensational, half-baked theories to the media who lapped it up. Within days of Jordan Brown’s wrongful arrest and incarceration, the media had already crucified the kid and portrayed his alleged guilt as a certainty. And all along, the TV film crews had the spectacle of the Houk family’s shameless vengeance show which was actively abetted by the police and prosecution.

(And now, in a January 23rd article by Chris Togneri of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, Nils Frederickson of the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office has the gall to say:  “Our attorneys do not conduct interviews about cases that are actively being litigated. I understand that some parties may be attempting to try this case in the media, but that’s not appropriate for the Attorney General’s Office.” Give me a break and spare us the hypocrisy. Now that Amnesty International and other credible organizations are siding with Jordan and we’re finally getting more balanced news coverage, the prosecution’s old rules no longer apply? You can dish it out, but you sure can’t take it! It’s a sure sign the prosecution knows they’re losing ground and have brought international dishonor to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.)

Monica is a bird of an entirely different feather and we are enjoying working together.

If more of these cases involving children were honestly examined—yes, even tried—in the media, we would soon enough have fewer bad judges like Rex Reed, Duane Huffer, and Dominick Motto, and fewer prosecutors like Dan Hampton and John Bonjivengo, who seem more concerned with election politics than performing their jobs with integrity, understanding, and compassion—even when young children are involved.

Isn’t it time that we stop behaving like mean hens and restore some humanity to society? The best place to start is with our own kids.

۞

Groove of the Day

Listen to Vladimir Horowitz performing Robert Schumann’s “Kinderszenen Op 15—Bittendes Kind”

(Scenes from Childhood—Pleading Child)

23
Dec
10

blue christmas

While most people are dreaming of a White Christmas, Jordan Brown is looking forward to the nightmare of spending a second Christmas in detention for a crime he did not commit, and with no clear timeline in sight for a chance to be exonerated and returned to his anguished father. For Jordan, this will be a very blue Christmas, indeed.

Thanks to research by Matt Stroud of the Innocence Institute of Point Park University and an excellent story released yesterday (at http://innocenceinstitute.org/uncategorized/a-question-of-responsibility/), for the first time the name of Kenzie Houk’s former boyfriend, Adam Harvey, has finally been made public, as well as other information in Kenzie’s own words about how Harvey had “left several messages threatening to hurt me and my family. I am in fear of him hurting me physically or my family. He has a drinking problem that is uncontrollable. He has threatened to hire someone to hurt me several times.”

What Matt did not disclose in his story is the reason that Harvey was mad enough at Kenzie to threaten to hire someone to hurt or murder her: that they had been involved in a bitter paternity and child support dispute, and after having submitted to DNA testing—and after having supported his “daughter” financially for some time—Harvey discovered the child was not his after all. Matt’s story did not question why the police would have failed to investigate this motive (while they had no evidence of motive for Jordan), nor why they accepted Harvey’s alibi and did not investigate whether he had, in fact, hired someone to hurt Kenzie as he’d allegedly threatened.

I imagine that Adam Harvey’s Christmas will be so much better than Jordan’s. I can only imagine that he is relieved that the police did not investigate his reported drunken and tearful admission to one of his friends at a party that he’d killed his girlfriend. He’s probably grateful that the curiosity of no one in the media was aroused about why he of all people should have been seated with the Houk family at one of Jordan’s courtroom hearings.

Former trooper Janice Wilson will be having a better Christmas than Jordan, too. She must be happy that she was promoted to the rank of corporal after having garnered so much publicity for having collared an 11-year-old child within 24 hours of the crime. Now that she has retired from the state police, she must be happy she can collect a pension while also collecting a salary in her new job as an investigator for Child Protective Services. She must be pleased that her presumed coercion of an incriminating witness statement from Kenzie’s daughter has not yet been exposed. And she must be happy, too, that the media has not yet picked up on the story told in the halls of the Lawrence County courthouse about her role in the wrongful conviction of Hank Kimball for 1994 murders that he, like Jordan, did not commit.

Even former prosecutor John Bongivengo will be having a better Christmas than Jordan. Now that he knows that all the physical evidence upon which he based his charges against Jordan has come back from the crime lab clearing Jordan, Bongivengo must be relieved that he will not have to prosecute the case with only a coerced witness statement and courtroom theatrics to rely upon.

But the person who will be having the best Christmas of all is governor-elect and Attorney General Tom Corbett, whose protection of incompetent police and his office’s “tough on crime” prosecution of a bogus case helped win him higher office. Now that he will be moving on to the governor’s mansion, and because he was careful not to become personally associated with the Jordan Brown case, he is probably imagining that his Teflon qualities will protect him even if the truth of Jordan’s innocence and wrongful imprisonment are established in court. He can always claim he didn’t know.

All these nasty adults will be having a good Christmas at the expense of an innocent child whose life they have permanently changed and scarred, regardless of the eventual outcome when the case finally goes to trial. In February Jordan will have been locked up for two years—an eternity in his short young life, and an eternity for his father, too.

۞

Groove of the Day

Listen to Elvis Presley performing “Blue Christmas”

29
Sep
10

who’s responsible?

I woke up in an agitated state this morning. I “slept on it” and it didn’t help.

Yesterday Jordan’s dad Chris Brown called to fill me in on the latest developments in Jordan’s ever-protracting case, and although Chris shared some very positive news with me, I have come away from the call distraught that this case has dragged on so long.

The fallout for Chris in the local community is intensifying. A short time ago he’d gone with friends to a local bar—something Chris almost never does because he wants to avoid incidents like this—and one of Kenzie’s ex-boyfriends who has remained close to the Houk family tapped him on the shoulder and, when Chris turned around, threatened Chris with a handgun. The police were called to the bar, Chris told them he wanted to press charges, but the police for their own reasons refused to follow through, saying that “it would be better for Jordan” if they didn’t.

(This was not the ex-boyfriend who may have committed the murder, but another one from long ago. Before Chris, Kenzie must have been attracted to some pretty rough characters.)

I reminded Chris that this ex-boyfriend probably thought he was in the right because all he knows about the case is based on the disinformation released by the police and prosecution to the Houk family and the public which has convinced them that Jordan was the perpetrator.

No one has told them that Jordan’s shotgun and the blue blanket came back from the crime lab clean. No one has been told that only two particles of gunshot residue were found on Jordan’s clothing where there should have been thousands if the murder had happened the way the police fantasize that it did. No one has acknowledged the missing “shotgun evidence,” explained why only 26 pellets were recovered from Kenzie’s brain, nor why her head had not been blown open or completely off if a shotgun had been used as police claim. No one has explained how a shotgun could have created an entry wound so small that the police didn’t even realize Kenzie had been shot until they moved her body onto the gurney.

No impartial authority has examined the evidence to determine if it even supports the wildly implausible story invented by the police. No one is questioning why and how  Trooper Janice Wilson coerced statements from a traumatized little girl supporting a fiction the crime lab has now shown did not happen. The prosecution certainly knows what evidence they do and don’t have. They know it doesn’t add up and won’t hold up.

But another election is on and they’re saying nothing.

Attorney General Tom Corbett has neither acknowledged the case nor directed his office to act honestly based on the facts, otherwise it would presumably upset the string of “law-and-order” endorsements he has secured in his run for Pennsylvania Governor from the Pennsylvania State Trooper’s Association, the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, and the Fraternal Order of Police (among others*). Until the gubernatorial election is over, Corbett must support the vested interests of his supporters and appear to be “tough on crime,” even if it means covering up outrageous police incompetence and dishonesty.

Although he has carefully avoided attaching his name to the controversy surrounding Jordan’s case, he has nevertheless allowed his deputy Anthony Krastek to pursue these groundless charges against Jordan. Politics and official corruption have polluted this case from the beginning, and Tom Corbett has done nothing to put the process on an honest track. And this man poses himself as having the personal integrity to serve as Pennsylvania’s governor!

The Pennsylvania courts have not examined the evidence, either.

Police interpretations of the evidence—and not the evidence itself—are the only things which have been entered into the court record at this point in the process. It is unlikely that these police lies and prosecutorial deceptions will hold up under impartial scrutiny when the time comes. Jordan’s lawyers are confident that they will win Jordan’s freedom on the basis of the evidence, which clears Jordan of any involvement in Kenzie’s murder. But the time for this examination of the true facts is many months away, if not years, as the question is decided of whether this examination of the truth shall take place in an adult or juvenile court.

In the meantime, Jordan is languishing in detention and his dad’s heart is broken.

Because the potential adult court penalty of a mandatory life-without-parole sentence is tantamount to a living death sentence, it is important that the case be decided in a juvenile court. Chris told me that the Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center took the lead in preparing the brief in the appeal to the Superior Court of Judge Motto’s decision to try Jordan as an adult. (A hearing date has not yet been set.) This is a very positive development because of their ability, experience, and prestige.

Yet this aspect of Jordan’s case is only a critical sideshow, a diversion from the more fundamental question of how it is possible that an innocent child could have been snatched from his bed in the middle of the night and jailed for more than a year and a half on the basis of police conjecture and theories which have been disproved by their own crime lab’s examination of the evidence. As public scrutiny is focused on the sideshow, no one is asking why Jordan was not released and why his name was not cleared when the crime lab results came back clearing him.

The most reasonable explanation is that, from the beginning, Jordan Brown has been used as a pawn in a shameless and cynical display of political theatre, first by former Lawrence County district attorney John Bongivengo who had hoped the sensational story would save him from political oblivion (it didn’t), and now by Pennsylvania attorney general Tom Corbett.

As officers of the court and playing by the rules of the court (and by not using the evidence at this time to publicly and conclusively debunk the state’s claims in the court of public opinion), Jordan’s lawyers have been allowing this subversion of justice to continue.

This case is no longer about justice, but about politics. I don’t think it has ever been about justice.

From the first day when the police jumped to conclusions, they pursued their “investigation” not following evidence and leads to find the real murderer, but to develop “evidence” that would support their sick story and hide their arrogant and contemptuous methods. As we have seen, they stooped to coercing a witness statement from Jordan’s traumatized younger sister and setting Kenzie’s family against Jordan and his dad. They even got school officials to muzzle the school community so that the people who know Jordan best—his teachers and friends—feel intimidated to speak up for him.

Now even Jordan is doing something which works against his self-interest: he is growing up.

When this whole ordeal began, he was a little kid who came up to my shoulders—he was a small boy who would have made a sympathetic defendant and answered all questions as the child that he was at the time of the murder. Now he is my height and forty pounds heavier. He has been forced to grow up fast in the company of young criminals and troublemakers. By the time his case comes to trial he will probably have pimples and will look big enough and tough enough to have committed a crime. Prisons have a way of rubbing off on anybody who comes in contact with them. The longer this case drags out and the bigger Jordan grows, the easier it might be for the prosecution to get a judge or jury to disregard the evidence and accept the word of dirty cops.

My recent experience with the David Champ case in Missouri gives me great hope that honesty and justice and the best interests of society can prevail. A child who has committed murder will have had his case properly and compassionately resolved within two months. But that is Missouri and this is Pennsylvania we’re talking about. This contrast exacerbates my frustration, and I’m dismayed that the prevailing spirit in the Keystone State is so perverse, cynical, and evil.

Holly and I both had ancestors who lived in Pennsylvania, and I thank God neither of us were born there and grew up there. Looking at Pennsylvania through the lens of the Jordan Brown story says to me that it is no place to raise children or trust the state with your family’s welfare.

I’m sorry if my words offend any Pennsylvania visitors, but I don’t see crowds out there rising up and protesting Jordan’s poor treatment. Even if he were guilty—which he is not—his treatment by the state is cruel, indecent, and unworthy.

Why is no one saying this about Tom Corbett? He’s the man responsible.

* Official Cover-Up?

Here are Tom Corbett’s law-and-order endorsements which he’d have to put on the line to act honestly in the Jordan Brown case:

Pennsylvania State Troopers Association

Pennsylvania State Lodge – Fraternal Order of Police

Also: Fraternal Order of Police E.B. Jermyn Lodge #2;  Tri-City Lodge #50; Fort Pitt FOP Lodge #1; Allegheny Valley FOP Lodge #39; Queen City FOP Lodge #10; Le-Hampton FOP Lodge #35; Wright Township Police Officers’ Association

Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association

Also: Northeast Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association; Chester County Police Chiefs Association; Luzerne County Chiefs of Police Association

 Pennsylvania Fraternal Order of Constables

 Pennsylvania Narcotics Officers Association

 Firearms Owners Against Crime

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Groove of the Day

Sadly, with all the drama going on in Pennsylvania, it is easy enough to forget about poor Jordan, who has one main thing on his mind:

Listen to Carole King performing “Home Again″

16
Sep
10

lie to me

Yesterday I finally got my hands on a box of 20-gauge shotgun shells and began my dissecting and counting tasks. Up until now I have only able to think and speak in rounded numbers and approximations. Now I’ll be able to examine the police claims in the Jordan Brown story with more accuracy and precision.

Yesterday I counted out the #6 pellets from a single shotgun shell, and laid them out in phalanxes on sticky tape. There were 183 total. The number of pellets recovered from Kenzie’s head is represented by one small grouping of a little more than two phalanxes of ten; the phantom pellets are represented by another much larger group of more than fifteen phalanxes. This simple exhibit shows that 85% of the evidence that should be present is not—evidence that’s either missing or, more likely, which never existed in the first place. This is a huge discrepancy.

As I reported in my September 13th entry, there were no holes in the mattress, no pellets in the bedding, no pellets in the pillow or walls. If the police are telling the truth, where are the 157 missing pellets?

Being able to make this graphic comparison between police claims and the actual truth has made me wonder again just how these cops ever thought they’d be able to get away with their lies.

First of all, the context for the likelihood of this crime having happened as the police say is completely absent. Crimes like this—that is, in which a child murders a parent—are extremely rare (there are only about 30 in the U.S. each year). According to Kathleen Heide, a criminology professor at the University of South Florida and the author of the book Why Kids Kill Parents, there are three types of children who kill their parents. There are those who’ve been abused and kill a parent to try to end the abuse. There are those who are antisocial and view their parents as obstacles trying to control them. And the last are those who are mentally ill. Jordan fits none of these three types, and no one has produced any evidence (like psychological evaluations) showing otherwise.janice wilson

Second, the reason police suspicion fell so quickly onto Jordan is that the police interviewer, Trooper Janice Wilson, suspected that Jordan was lying to her. To justify her gut instinct, Wilson seized on minor observational inconsistencies in Jordan’s description of a black pickup truck he’d seen parked near the house the morning of the murder. But who is to say if Trooper Wilson is even adept at discerning liars and their lies?

Scientists Dr. Maureen O’Sullivan and Dr. Paul Eckman, upon whose research the Fox TV series Lie to Me is based, identified only 50 out of 20,000 people (about 0.25% of the population) they tested from all walks of life, including the Secret Service, FBI, sheriffs, police, attorneys, arbitrators, psychologists, students, and many others, who are able to tell with 85% or better accuracy if someone is lying to them. They called these adepts “Truth Wizards.” It is highly unlikely that Janice Wilson is one of these rare natural savants, and more likely that her skills are greater in the twisting and fabrication of evidence to serve her own possibly warped ego needs.

She is the interviewer who, in a third late-night interview (after the previous two interviews yielded no incriminating evidence against Jordan) got Jordan’s step-sister to supply a statement with supporting details for the police scenario—like the claim that Jordan wrapped his shotgun in a blue blanket to muffle the sound—that have long since been debunked by the state’s crime lab. The blue blanket came back from the lab with no traces of gunshot residue, and the hole “from the shotgun blast” proved to be an old cigarette burn. Yet the blue blanket figures prominently in the young girl’s coerced witness statement.

(It’s a frightening thought that Janice Wilson has retired from the state police and is now working as an investigator for Child Protective Services. Who else’s children is she screwing with now?)

Third, it is so outrageous that the police and prosecution have been allowed to get away with releasing information about their evidence which is technically true but completely misleading. For example, they stated that gunshot residue was found on Jordan’s shirt and trousers, thereby creating the impression that he was the shooter. But do you know how much residue was actually found on these two items of clothing? Only one particle on each!

If Jordan had discharged the murder weapon, he and his clothing would have been covered with gunshot residue from head to toe. If a shotgun had been used, he and his clothing would also have been covered with blood and brains. But a shotgun was not used, and Jordan wasn’t the shooter. Jordan and his clothing were virtually spotless. (Two grains of residue is an infinitesimal amount which could easily have been picked up if the boy had dropped his trousers on the floor or placed his shirt on a dresser top.)

I’m outraged that the legal process (as well as its media coverage) is presently transfixed by the important distraction of whether Jordan should be tried as an adult or a child, which completely obscures the fact that this little boy has been imprisoned for a year and a half without a shred of evidence to suggest any connection whatsoever between him and this heinous crime.

All the while Mr. Krastek the prosecutor perpetuates this cruel perversion of justice using the heinousness of the crime as his chief justification. Hell yes, the crime was heinous. Just look at the misery it’s caused.

But that misery is being compounded—not only for Jordan and his dad, and the Houk family, too—but for our whole brutalized society to which this case is proving that the police, law, and courts cannot be relied upon to seek the truth and are therefore unworthy of our trust.

The state’s evidence should have been examined long ago, rather than just accepting the officials’ self-serving interpretations of evidence that actually clears Jordan. He should have been released as soon as the crime lab results were received and his name should have been officially cleared. But it appears the Commonwealth is intent on winning at all costs.

As investigative journalist Bill Moushey’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette series “Win at All Costs” (http://innocenceinstitute.org/WinAtAllCosts.pdf) makes so evident, we must expect a significant number of police and prosecutors to be unethical liars. When cases like this don’t add up, it is in our own vital interest to challenge their findings and actions.

Later today or tomorrow I’m going to drive into town to buy some melons if I can find them. It’s time to see for myself what kinds of wound evidence should be present if the police crime theory were true, and then compare that to replication of the wounds as actually observed and documented.

Hopefully this demonstration can help blow the mask off this whole farce, help us learn from this travesty, and prevent its ever happening again.

And yet I cannot shake the thought of what Goethe once said so well: “We are never deceived, we deceive ourselves.” I am wondering what this whole sad story says not only about police and prosecutors, but about us.

۞

Groove of the Day

Listen to Jonny Lang performing “Lie to Me″

A very cool blues song by a talented kid from Minneapolis.

His ex-babysitter is a part of my extended family.

13
Sep
10

counting, counting

Last night we visited a friend to pick up samples of shotgun shells with #6 pellets in them. We know that fewer than thirty #6 birdshot pellets were recovered at autopsy from Kenzie Houk’s brain. How did they get there?

The police say they got there as the result of a point-blank blast from Jordan’s “youth-sized” 20-gauge shotgun which they could tell by smell had been recently fired.

But how recently? Two hours before, or twelve or more? They don’t know.

The police didn’t even scientifically determine the time of Kenzie’s death, which could have and should have been done but was not. There’s no way they could have scientifically determined how recently Jordan’s shotgun had been fired. But what would have been the point, anyway, without a definitive time of death with which to match it? The only thing their sniff test told the cops is that Jordan’s shotgun had been fired and not cleaned.

The police retrieved a 20-gauge shell casing from the outdoors area where Jordan and his dad were practice-shooting the day before the murder. The police claim the retrieved casing was THE shell used to kill Kenzie. But why that particular casing and not one of the others scattered about nearby?

We know that this particular brand and type of 20-gauge shell is manufactured with slightly fewer than 200 #6 pellets in each one. Yet fewer than 30 of these pellets were recovered from Kenzie’s head. There were no holes in the mattress, no pellets in the bedding, no pellets in the pillow or walls. If the police are telling the truth, where are the roughly 160 missing pellets?

They didn’t just disappear by magic. If they existed, they could not have been missed by even the most negligent investigators. It is more plausible that the missing pellets never existed in the first place, which would mean a 20-gauge shell had not been used, and Jordan’s shotgun was not the murder weapon.

So what kind of weapon and ammunition could have delivered fewer than 30 pellets to Kenzie’s brain? We know without question that it was not a shotgun because of the missing pellets alone. Because a spent casing was not found in the bedroom where Kenzie was murdered, it’s likely a revolver loaded with shells containing #6 birdshot was used.

A handgun, not a shotgun. But whose handgun?

These shells can be homemade without any special reloading equipment and as a result are virtually untraceable by law enforcement. This is evidence of someone’s premeditation, but no one has ever suggested that Jordan made his own ammunition. No, someone else was the shooter, an experienced handgun owner, someone with a motive who had been thinking about doing this crime for some time.

Using the materials from one of our friend’s shotgun shells and a .38-caliber brass shell casing, Paul showed me how to make such a shell this morning and it wasn’t hard to do. I first loaded in sand (to simulate the proper number of gunpowder grains), inserted a small cardboard disk as wadding, then the exact number of #6 pellets that were found in Kenzie’s head, and finally a second cardboard wadding disk that would have then been sealed into the casing with wax. It only took a few minutes and it all fit perfectly.

Going just by the numbers, this alternative hypothesis about the probable murder weapon is not only plausible but more likely than the police theory. It answers the vexing question of those 160 phantom pellets. It matches the actual evidence in hand.

Yet counting pellets does not tell the whole story. We must look at the wounds.

I had hoped our friend would have a 20-gauge shotgun and ammo, but he only had 12-gauge (which for the uninitiated is a slightly larger gun with slightly larger shells than 20-gauge—we have 12-gauge equipment). I need to find a 20-gauge shotgun we can borrow, so we can stage and photograph a reconstruction based on the evidentiary facts and see whether this murder could have possibly happened as police claim.

I need to show you point-blank shotgun blasts to melons (or animal cadavers if necessary), so we can see for ourselves if it is possible that the entry wound from a 20-gauge shotgun could have been so small that the police didn’t even know Kenzie had been shot until they placed her body on the gurney.

I need to verify whether she could have sustained no facial damage from a shotgun blast, or if her head would have been blown open or severed from her spine as my gun expert friends say. Now that I know how to make homemade shot shells, I can see for myself if they will replicate the small wound which is documented to have been actually present on the back of Kenzie’s head.

Paul has just brought me a supply of empty .38 caliber shells, and I will be counting out shot pellets through much of the remainder of the day. Not the most mentally challenging work, yet necessary to get at the truth.

Counting was apparently too tough a task for the Pennsylvania State Police to have done from the beginning. This is why the facts in the Jordan Brown case have never added up… and why the days of Jordan’s wrongful imprisonment keep counting up.

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Groove of the Day

Listen to Feist performing “1-2-3-4″

10
Sep
10

jordan again

Yesterday I took a call from a young man at the Innocence Institute of Point Park University in Pittsburgh, and I realized it was time to get out of my sick bed and begin working again for Jordan.

The Innocence Institute is an investigative journalism student organization working in partnership with major media outlets which typically investigates claims of wrongful conviction by members of the Pennsylvania inmate population. It operates under the leadership of award-winning veteran investigative reporter and associate professor Bill Moushey. Since 2001 their work has led to the exoneration of some fifteen innocent people in Pennsylvania prisons—a pretty good track record, in my opinion.

In this case they are interested in reporting on a wrongful conviction in the making (if the Commonwealth were to get its way). Here at last, I thought, is an opportunity to help guide eyes and ears on the ground to expose the evil farce that has kept an innocent child locked up for more than a year and a half purely on the basis of police allegations and not on the merit of any evidence except a coerced witness statement.

These young people and their mentor are aware of the devious techniques used by dishonest cops and corrupt prosecutors, and know the rules of the legal game well enough that they understand how a completely innocent child can be framed and railroaded by a broken system without motive, opportunity, physical evidence, or reliable witness testimony. They are experienced in research and interviewing techniques that can help the public to see that a gross, heartless, and unjust persecution has been conducted by Pennsylvania authorities against a little boy who never did anything seriously wrong in his whole short life.

This young reporter’s call was just the thing I needed to give my day a lift. His call was like a ray of light because I believe the young people in our society are our greatest hope. It is they who must show their errant elders that justice in America has taken a disastrous turn as long as outrages like the Jordan Brown story exist.

I hope these young journalists can make a difference. I’ll help them any way I can.

29
Jul
10

jordan’s appeal

Late Tuesday Jordan’s attorneys received word from the Pennsylvania Superior Court that their petition for a hearing appealing Judge Motto’s decision to try 12-year-old Jordan Brown as an adult has been granted. The court docket has the hearing scheduled for Friday, August 13th in Pittsburgh.

Chris Brown contacted me yesterday and said, “Oddly as it may seem, this is two in a row for us. A glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel.” Jordan’s attorney Dennis Elisco said he was relieved by the court order. “I can uncross my fingers now, I guess.”

Predictably, Debbie Houk complained she is growing tired of delays.

In the March hearing which resulted in the judge’s outrageous ruling, the state argued that Jordan is not amenable to rehabilitation as long as he refuses to confess to a crime he did not commit, while the defense met all statutory requirements to show that Jordan is amenable to rehabilitation and should therefore be tried as the child he is.

If Jordan is convicted of first- or second-degree murder as an adult, he faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole. If his case moves to juvenile court, the state could not hold him beyond his 21st birthday if he were convicted.

All of this is, of course, beside the main point that Jordan is innocent and being railroaded with tainted and misconstrued evidence.

I am not superstitious, but the Friday the 13th docket date is a reminder that the state appears determined to carry out this miscarriage of justice, and that plenty could still go wrong for Jordan.

We’re not out of the woods yet.




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