St. Vincent College law professor Bruce Antkowiak, a former federal prosecutor and defense attorney, said the judge might also have a message for Jordan Brown's family and friends, who insist the now-14-year-old is innocent of the February 2009 killings.
Lawrence County Judge John Hodge is scheduled to issue his verdict Friday afternoon in Brown's closed-door juvenile court trial about 45 miles northwest of Pittsburgh. If the boy is convicted, Antkowiak wouldn't be surprised if the judge urges Brown's family to accept his guilt so Jordan can be rehabilitated.
"Hopefully, at some point, the actual truth of this matter becomes evident to all involved," said Antkowiak, who isn't involved in the case. "Either now or later, it's probably going to become an issue that the judge is going to address."
If Brown is found delinquent—the juvenile court equivalent of guilty—in the deaths of 26-year-old Kenzie Houk and her unborn son, he will face some combination of juvenile incarceration, probation or counseling until he's 21.
Brown was originally charged as an adult, where he faced up to life in prison, because Pennsylvania doesn't allow criminal homicide charges to originate in juvenile court. Criminal homicide charges can be moved, however, if the defense convinces a judge the defendant is more likely to be rehabilitated in juvenile court
Another county judge, Dominick Motto, at first refused to transfer Brown's case because a prosecution expert testified during a March 2010 hearing that Brown was "avoidant" and "evasive" when asked about the killings and denied all responsibility.
At that time, Deputy Attorney General Anthony Krastek told the AP that attempts by Brown's friends and family to paint him as wrongly accused hurt his chance of getting the case moved to juvenile court.
"Our hands are tied when you have a completely avoidant personality and a support system that ratifies it," Krastek said then.
Christopher Brown said on ABC's "Good Morning America" days before that hearing that his son Jordan was not only "too young" to appreciate the magnitude of the crime but he was also innocent. The father repeated those claims Thursday after closing arguments in his son's trial.
"Hopefully, the judge does the right thing here in finding Jordan not guilty, not responsible," Christopher Brown said. "We have an 11-year-old child who is wrongfully accused of a homicide of a woman he loved as his mother."
Jordan Brown's defense attorney, Stephen Colafella, said if his client is found guilty, he believes the judge will address the family's claims of innocence when the court eventually reviews how long to incarcerate Brown, but not on Friday. But he said a guilty verdict isn't a foregone conclusion.
"This is a very, very circumstantial case," Colafella said, arguing that the prosecution essentially tried to prove that nobody other than Jordan could have shot Houk. "And, in my opinion, the Commonwealth failed to produce enough evidence to meet that burden."
Krastek on Thursday said he didn't want to speculate on the verdict—or anything else Hodge might say.
Motto, the only other county judge to hear the evidence, acknowledged it supported Krastek's charges that Brown shot Houk in the head with his .20-gauge youth model shotgun while she was lying in bed. The boy's father had just left for work, and Houk's two daughters, ages 7 and 4, were elsewhere in the house.
"The offense was an execution-style killing of a defenseless pregnant young mother," Motto wrote, after reviewing ballistics evidence and testimony that suggested the boy might have been jealous of Houk's unborn son, who died of oxygen deprivation.
Brown's attorneys, however, argued that the boy was being forced to incriminate himself to avoid being tried as an adult and facing life in prison, and the appeals court agreed.
Months later, Motto reconsidered, after he was ordered by the court to give more weight to a defense expert who thought Jordan would do well in rehabilitation, and moved the case to juvenile court.
But Jack Houk, Kenzie's father, said he believes Motto got it right the first time—especially in light of the Brown family's continued denials.
"The bad thing about it is he won't admit he's guilty, so how do you rehabilitate him?" Houk said. "That's what Judge Motto said two years ago."