Kids Can Take Their Chances
Instead, the court wrote, a "causal connection" must be shown between not notifying parents and obtaining a confession that the child would otherwise not have made. The Feb. 13 ruling returned the case of a Houston teen to the First Court of Appeals for a determination as to whether or not that causal relationship existed.
In 1996, 15-year-old Chance Gonzales was arrested for the shooting death of a Houston convenience store clerk. Police said Gonzales shot the clerk while trying to steal beer from the store. Police arrested Gonzales, read him his rights, took him before a magistrate judge, and questioned him in a juvenile facility. Six hours later, after they had obtained a signed confession, police notified Gonzales' parents that he had been arrested. The trial court failed to suppress Gonzales' statement to police, but the First Court of Appeals subsequently ruled that failure to notify Gonzales' parents made his statement inadmissible in court.
In a separate, concurring opinion -- in which she agreed with the court's decision but not its reasoning -- the court's presiding judge, Sharon Keller, questioned whether the Legislature ever intended the parental notification section of the Family Code to have any bearing on confessions. "[T]he notice provision creates potential problems," she wrote. For instance, how fast is "promptly"? And what happens with the provision if the parents can't be notified because the child is being detained for killing them? "And these potential problems lend further support to the idea that the purpose of the notice provision is to allay a parent's concern over the unexplained absence of his child rather than to allow the parent to interfere with custodial notification," she wrote.