Texas Courts of Appeals
No. 01-19-00581-CR 7/28/20
During jury selection for the offense of continuous sexual abuse of a young child, is a question to the venire panel from the State about whether children more commonly deny actual sexual abuse or more commonly falsely allege sexual abuse an improper commitment question?
No. The State’s question was not a commitment question because it did not ask the jurors to resolve or abstain from resolving the case a certain way based on the facts contained in the question. Similar to McDonald v. State, 186 S.W.3d 86, 90 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 2005, no pet.) where the court of appeals found the State’s question to a venire panel (“Do you feel that children likely will make up sexual abuse or unlikely?”) was not a commitment question, the State’s question here “attempts to discover whether any of the prospective jurors harbor a pre-existing bias or prejudice concerning the likelihood of children in general fabricating sexual abuse allegations.” Read Opinion.
This is a rare published opinion showing Standefer in action. It is short enough to read more than once, and doing so might help you defend against Standefer claims and update your voir dire scripts.
No. 06-20-00027-CR 7/28/20
Is a defendant’s voluntary statement given while in jail to an investigator at the sheriff’s department considered a custodial interrogation?
No. The defendant’s voluntary confession was not the result of a custodial interrogation because confinement does not automatically constitute custody that triggers Miranda and Article 38.22 warnings. The record shows that the defendant invited the interview by asking to speak with an officer. The investigator did not confront the defendant with any evidence of his guilt. And the defendant’s freedom of movement in the jail was not further restricted after the interview. Read Opinion.
The better argument in this case might be that the officer did not interrogate the defendant under either the 5th or 6th amendment standards. Find the answers to this and similar issues in Alan K. Curry, Confessions (TDCAA 2019).