=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= CASEWORKERS ORDERED

---
Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= CASEWORKERS ORDERED TO GIVE MIRANDA WARNINGS =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= Article From National Law Journal, 9/18/89, p.14; reproduced here via the Arizona Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) BBS (602) 271 9357 and the National Congress for Men BBS, (602) 840-4752. Both computer BBS's are accessible at 300, 1200 and 2400 baud, N81. =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= By Gary Taylor, Special to the National Law Journal =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= PUBLIC WELFARE lawyers nationwide are watching closely to see whether the highest criminal appellate court in Texas will reverse its earlier controversial ruling that extended MIRANDA warning responsibilities to child abuse caseworkers. Linda Wolf, deputy director of the Washington, D.C.-based American Public Welfare Association, a public welfare workers group, say the Texas decision is troubling. "We don't believe children's protective services workers should have the responsibility for MIRANDA warnings. They have civil authority and this adds to the complexities of their job, " Ms. Wolf said. "The good side of it is that it forces more delineation to the set of responsibilities between these workers and the police. But MIRANDA warnings are something we would not support." Prosecutors filed a petition for rehearing of the June 7 decision by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, CATES v. STATE, 031-88. The petition is currently pending before the court. In an era of U.S. Supreme Court decisions that have narrowed the constitutional rights of criminal defendants, observers say the Texas court ruling is significant. In its opinion, the Texas court overturned the 1986 conviction of William Curtis Cates, sentenced to 10 years in prison on a charge of injury to a child. Crucial to the prosecution's case was testimony by a child abuse caseworker who interviewed the suspect in jail and obtained an oral confession. "He told the welfare worker, 'I beat her, I'm not going to tell you I didn't beat her. I took my belt off and I don't remember anything after that.' " said Dallas sole practitioner Molly Meredith LeNoir, who handled the appeal for Mr. Cates. "If they let them get away with this, you can envision police in every child abuse case telling a caseworker to go on up to the cell and see what the suspect has to say." "Special Circumstances" But Blaine Nordwall, president of the American Association of Public Welfare Attorneys and chief legal counsel for the North Dakota Department of Human Services, describes a different scenario in most child abuse cases. He says in a typical situation, an investigator interrogates the suspect in his own living room, Mr. Nordwall notes that the custodial aspect present in the Texas case, with the suspect already incarcerated, presents a "completely special circumstance." Nevertheless, the ruling has Texas welfare attorneys reviewing the need for caseworkers to request police assistance more often now just to ensure MIRANDA guarantees. And overall, the decision brings added focus on the MIRANDA duties of any number of professionals who might get involved in a criminal case, then later be defined as a "'police agent" when called to testify in court. Judge Marvin O. Teague, in a concurring opinion, criticized the court majority for expanding the requirements of one profession at a time rather than establishing a "bright line rule" to cover the situations. "The primary reason that I don not join in the majority opinion lies in the fact it fails to expressly hold, in big bold print, for all the world to see, that when caseworkers for the Department of Human Services and professionals such as schoolteachers who investigate a complaint against a natural parent.... for committing child abuse or child neglect, they are then acting as the functional equivalent of certified peace officers and should be held to the same standards that certified peace officers must adhere to when they interview a suspect to a crime," Judge Teague said. Police Agents? Asst. Dallas County District Attorney Pamela Sullivan Berdanier argued that the child abuse caseworker lacked the power to arrest and therefore could not be described as a police agent. And the Dallas Court of Appeals initially agreed, citing a 1984 decision by the higher court in which statements to a child abuse caseworker were held admissible. PAEZ v. STATE, 681 S.W. 2d 34. But Judge M.P. "Rusty" Duncan III, writing for the majority, noted a 1981 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in another Texas case. It held that a court-ordered psychiatrist had acted as a law enforcement officer in interviewing capital murder defendants while in custody. ESTELLE v. SMITH, 451 U.S. 454. Judge Duncan wrote that a child abuse caseworker can trigger a suspect's MIRANDA rights if the caseworker is "utilizing her capacity so as to accomplish what the police could not lawfully have accomplished themselves." =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

---

E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank