SUNBURY — A convicted teen killer who was sentenced to life without parole in 2003 will have to wait at least 120 more days before a Northumberland County judge will hear a Post-Conviction Relief Act motion made possible by a January Supreme Court ruling that gives more than 2,100 other inmates who committed murders as teenagers the opportunity to seek parole or a new sentence.
Assistant District Attorney William Cole and defense attorney James Best appeared Monday afternoon in front of President Judge Charles Saylor for a status conference for Brandon Brown, who was 15 years old when he kidnapped, raped and killed his 6-year-old neighbor in Coal Township in 2001.
A hearing, in which he will be present for, is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 22.
"There are lots of questions still," Best said following the conference about the Supreme Court decision. "We’d be happy if the Supreme Court gave a little guidance."
Saylor, too, noted the lack of "specific" guidance" as cases like Brown’s move forward.
Brown, now age 30 and incarcerated at SCI-Forest in Marienville, was convicted in 2003, and was sentenced as an adult to a life sentence for first-degree homicide and a consecutive term of 17 to 70 years for two counts of kidnapping and two counts of rape. Two counts of aggravated assault were merged with the murder charge for sentencing purposes. Seven other charges were not considered.
The body of 6-year-old Jasmine Stoud was recovered Aug. 12, 2001, along an old mining road near her home in Shamokin. Her skull had been fractured in several places by a rock found nearby. Jasmine’s DNA was detected on Brown’s body and clothing.
Saylor is giving both the prosecution and defense time to review the case, gather any new evidence and bring in potential experts or witnesses to testify in the case.
"I can appreciate the time involved for a case like this," Saylor said.
Best said Brown could testify if necessary.
"We have to consider his conduct in prison all these years later," he said. "It’s a tricky thing."
The Supreme Court’s ruling in January expanded a 2012 decision involving a 14-year-old boy that claimed mandatory life sentences without parole for juveniles was unconstitutional and amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. Until that ruling, it was unclear whether the decision was retroactive to juveniles already serving life sentences.
Best noted the case of teen killer Qu’eed Batts, a 14 year-old gang member when he shot and killed 16-year-old C.J. Edwards in Easton in 2006. In accordance with the Supreme Court ruling, he appealed his conviction but was resentenced again to life in prison with no parole earlier this year.
Batts has appealed that sentence to the state Superior Court.
Brown is not Northumberland County’s only teen killer eligible to take advantage of the new ruling. Norman Gundrum Jr., who was 15 years old when he fatally stabbed a friend in Milton in 1993, is being handled by the state attorney general’s office, according to Northumberland County District Attorney Tony Matulewicz.
Gundrum, now age 39 and incarcerated at SCI-Coal Township, was convicted by a jury of first-degree murder in 1995, and was sentenced as an adult to life in prison without parole. A felony count of aggravated assault and a misdemeanor count of making an offensive weapon were not considered.
Gundrum stabbed his childhood friend Bobby Coup to death in Milton in 1993.
A hearing for Gundrum has not yet been scheduled in Northumberland County Court.
Email Justin Strawser at jstrawser@ dailyitem.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinLStrawser.