Robert O. Dawson
Bryant Smith Chair in Law
University of Texas School of Law
2001 Case Summaries 2000 Case Summaries 1999 Case Summaries
Murder confession suppressed because police
failed to notify parents of juvenile’s arrest [Hampton v. State] (01-1-13).
On January 25, 2001, the El Paso Court of Appeals held that a juvenile’s murder confession was illegally admitted into evidence in his criminal trial because police failed to notify his parents of his arrest as required by the Family Code.
¶ 01-1-13. Hampton v. State, ___ S.W.3d ___, No. 08-00-00045-CR, 2001 WL 62918, 2001 Tex.App.Lexis ___ (Tex.App.—El Paso 1/25/01)[Texas Juvenile Law (5th Edition 2000)].
Facts: In two issues involving voluntariness of a juvenile's custodial statement and mid-trial disclosure of exculpatory evidence, Leon Hampton, Jr. appeals his conviction for murder.
On the evening of March 18, 1999, a man was shot and killed at an apartment complex in Ector County, Texas. Within three minutes of the shooting, Lashara Nicole Preston, who lived in an apartment near where the shooting took place, found appellant Leon Hampton, Jr. on her back porch, asking to be let inside. Jarvis Darnell Preston, her brother, offered to take Hampton home. Preston testified at trial that after the two men left the apartment complex, Hampton told Preston that he thought he had shot somebody in self-defense. On the night of March 22, 1999, Odessa Police found and arrested Hampton. At that time, Hampton's mother advised Detective Dean McCann that Hampton was a juvenile. Hampton was taken into custody for absconding from juvenile probation, not as a murder suspect. While at the police station, Detective McCann asked Hampton several times if he cared to give a statement. After Hampton settled down and stopped being "vocal and profane," he agreed. Once police were able to verify that Hampton was sixteen years old, officers transported him to the youth detention center. Because it was late, Detective McCann decided to postpone taking Hampton's statement until morning so that everyone could be well rested. The next morning, Detective McCann arrived at the youth center, asked Hampton if he wanted to give a statement, Hampton answered in the affirmative, and together they returned to the police station. Once there, after waiting forty-five-minutes, Hampton received his Miranda warnings. Immediately thereafter, Detective McCann videotaped Hampton's statement. Hampton was then arrested for murder and taken back to the youth center.
It was not until Hampton was giving his statement that Hampton's mother first learned of her son's change in status from absconder to murder suspect, and that he had agreed to make a statement.
The trial court held a pretrial hearing and denied Hampton's motion to suppress the statement. In that statement, which was admitted into evidence at trial over Hampton's objection, Hampton admitted to having shot the deceased, but maintained he had acted in self-defense.
Held: Reversed and remanded.
Opinion Text: In the first issue on appeal, Hampton asserts that the trial court erred in failing to suppress his videotaped statement and allowing it to be introduced into evidence at trial. He urges that the manner in which his statement was taken violated the Texas Family Code. [FN1] We agree.
FN1. Tex. Fam.Code Ann. § 52.02 (Vernon Supp.2001).
Issues regarding a confession of a juvenile, though raised in a criminal forum, are controlled by the applicable provisions of the Family Code. [FN2] When a juvenile is in custody, the detaining authorities must comply with the Family Code's requirements. A juvenile's confession, if illegally taken, cannot be admitted against him in a subsequent criminal trial, consistent with Article 38.23 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.
FN2. See Smith v. State, 881 S.W.2d 727, 731 (Tex.App.--Houston [1st Dist.] 1994, pet. ref'd).
Texas Family Code ss 52.02(a) and (b) provide:
(a) ... a person taking a child into custody, without unnecessary delay and without first taking the child to any place other than a juvenile processing office designated under Section 52.025, shall do one of the following:
(3) bring the child to a detention facility designated by the juvenile court [.]
(b) A person taking a child into custody shall promptly give notice of his action and a statement of the reason for taking the child into custody, to:
(1) the child's parent, guardian, or custodian; and
(2) the office or official designated by the juvenile court.
Here, Detective McMann complied with Section (a)
when he initially took Hampton to the police station, as the specific room to
which he brought Hampton (Room 203D) is a designated facility for the temporary
detention of juveniles. There was, however, no compliance with the second
section recited above. Although police initially informed Hampton's mother that
he was being taken into custody on a juvenile absconder warrant, they did not
tell her of the murder charge until Hampton was in the process of making his
statement, and then only when she called authorities to find out about her son's
status. Detective McCann did not promptly give notice to Hampton's mother of
Detective McCann's action with regard to the murder charge, nor did he tell her
why he was taking Hampton to the police station the following morning. Moreover,
the record contains no evidence of any attempt to notify the office or official
designated by the juvenile court. Because Detective McCann did not act in
accordance with Texas Family Code Section 52.02(b), Hampton's confession was
illegally obtained, and therefore, the trial court abused its discretion in not
suppressing the statement and in admitting it into evidence.
Having determined that the trial court erred in failing to suppress Hampton's statement, we must now consider whether Hampton was harmed by the improperly admitted evidence under Tex.R.App. P. 44.2 governing reversible error in criminal cases. Even under the more lenient standard, which requires us to disregard non-constitutional error unless it affects substantial rights of the defendant, we conclude Hampton was harmed. A substantial right is affected when the error had a substantial and injurious effect or influence in determining the jury's verdict. In the present case, Hampton chose not to testify. Particularly in light of the undisclosed Brady evidence discussed below, we are concerned that Hampton's statement had a potentially dramatic effect on the jury's decision-making process. After examining the record as a whole, we cannot say with fair assurance that the error did not influence the jury, or had but a slight effect. We therefore conclude that the denial of Hampton's motion to suppress and the admission of his statement at trial affected Hampton's substantial rights and therefore constitutes reversible error. Hampton's first issue is sustained.
The judgment is reversed and the case is remanded to the trial court.
2001 Case Summaries 2000 Case Summaries 1999 Case Summaries