AELE LAW LIBRARY OF CASE SUMMARIES:
Civil Liability
of Law Enforcement Agencies & Personnel


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Interrogation: Children

    Monthly Law Journal Article: Civil Liability for Intentional Violations of Miranda. Part One: Liability Considerations, 2009 (7) AELE Mo. L. J. 501.
    Monthly Law Journal Article:
Civil Liability for Intentional Violations of Miranda. Part Two: Criminal Admissibility,2009 (8) AELE Mo. L. J. 501.
    Monthly Law Journal Article: Civil Liability for Coercive Interrogation, 2010 (3) AELE Mo. L. J. 101.
     Monthly Law Journal Article: Greene v. Camreta - The Ninth Circuit's Ruling on Questioning Minors in Abuse Investigations, 2010 (6) AELE Mo. L. J. 101.
     Monthly Law Journal Article: Civil Liability for Improper Interrogation of Minors--Part 1, 2010 (7) AELE Mo. L. J. 101
     Monthly Law Journal Article: Civil Liability for Improper Interrogation of Minors--Part 2, 2010 (8) AELE Mo. L. J. 101
     Monthly Law Journal Article: Beguiling a Confession Subverting Miranda, 2011 (7) AELE Mo. L. J. 401
     The U.S. Supreme Court has vacated a federal appeals court ruling that the decision to seize and interrogate a minor at school about suspected sexual abuse without a warrant, court order, exigent circumstances or parental consent was unconstitutional, in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The Supreme Court held that it had jurisdiction to hear an appeal of the appeals court's holding by the defendants despite the fact that they were granted qualified immunity from liability. The Supreme Court did not rule on the merits of the rule adopted by the federal appeals court as to the interrogation of juveniles at school, but vacated the ruling as moot since the minor has moved to another state and therefore no longer has a stake in a ruling concerning the practices of California governmental employees. Camreta v. Greene, #091454. 2011 U.S. Lexis 4016.
     A husband and father was shot and killed after his 12-year-old daughter went to get a gun for him. Police suspected that he might have been murdered by his family members. The wife and daughter claimed that they were improperly detained in a police mobile unit for one-and-a-half to two hours when officers, actually engaged in installing a surreptitious listening device in their home pursuant to a warrant, falsely told them that there was a hostage situation involving a gun in the area so that they could not return to their home. The daughter, who was subsequently arrested, claimed that officers interrogated her without advising her of her right to have her attorney or mother present, and denied her access to her attorney or mother. She disputed the officers' claim that she had waived her rights. Denying motions by the officers for qualified immunity or judgment as a matter of law, the court instructed the jury on both unlawful detention and unlawful interrogation claims, The jury was also instructed on qualified immunity. The jury, answering special interrogatories, found that the officers' had not violated the plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment rights through unlawful detention, and that they did not engage in conduct that "shocks the conscience" in violation of due process in their interrogation of the daughter. While the plaintiffs argued that the trial judge acted erroneously in submitting the instruction on qualified immunity to the jury, the appeals court ruled that, even if this were the case, it would have been harmless, in light of the jury's answers to special interrogatories indicating a "total defense verdict" on all issues, including whether the officers engaged in unlawful detention or improper interrogation. Gonzales v. Duran, #08-2184 590 F.3d 855 (10th Cir. 2009).
      A caseworker and a deputy sheriff seized and interrogated one of a woman's daughters for two hours in a private office at her school, allegedly without a warrant, probable cause or parental consent, because they suspected that the woman's husband had been sexually molesting her. The caseworker later obtained a court order removing both of the woman's daughters from her home and subjected them to "intrusive" sexual abuse examinations. A federal appeals court found that the "special needs" search doctrine could not apply to justify the seizure, given the deep involvement of law enforcement personnel and purposes. The decision to seize and interrogate the first daughter without a warrant, court order, exigent circumstances or parental consent was unconstitutional, in violation of the Fourth Amendment. But the defendants were entitled to qualified immunity because the application of the Fourth Amendment to an in school seizure of a suspected sexual abuse victim was not clearly established. The caseworker was not, however, entitled to qualified immunity on a claim of having made a false representation. Further proceedings were required on due process claims regarding the obtaining of the child removal order and the exclusion of the mother from her daughter's medical examinations. Greene v. Camreta, #06-35333, 2009 U.S. App. Lexis 26891 (9th Cir.).
     As a 14-year-old boy, one of the plaintiffs, now an adult, allegedly falsely confessed to murdering his younger sister, following a series of "coercive" and "grueling" interrogations. He and his accused 15-year-old accomplice, who also sued, were allegedly isolated and subjected to many hours and days of questioning, during which time they were lied to, threatened, cajoled, and pressured by teams of police officers. A federal appeals court overturned summary judgment for the defendant police detectives, finding that such tactics, if true, violated the Fifth Amendment, and also "shock the conscience" in violation of substantive due process. 'Psychological torture' is not an inapt description," the court stated. The defendants were not entitled to qualified immunity on claims relating to the interrogations, which allegedly resulted in coerced statements used in various proceedings. Qualified immunity applied, however, to claims relating to the arrest and search warrants, since the warrant applications, while arguably omitting some exculpatory information, did not demonstrate reckless disregard of the boys' rights or deliberate falsification. A vagrant who suffers from schizophrenia was later convicted of voluntary manslaughter in connection with the sister's death after the sister's DNA was found on one of his shirts. Crowe v. County of San Diego, #05-55467, 2010 U.S. App. Lexis 894 (9th Cir.).
    In a lawsuit arising from the interrogation of an 11-year-old minor, then in foster care, regarding the death of a two-year-old child, 6th Amendment claims against an assistant prosecutor were properly dismissed since no arrest or formal judicial proceeding had then been initiated. Additionally, the assistant prosecutor was entitled to qualified immunity, as it was not "well established" that a minor had any 6th Amendment right to counsel in connection with the filing of a petition in an action affecting the parent-child relationship. Murray v. Earle, #08-50603, 2009 U.S. App. Lexis 11882 (Unpub. 5th Cir.).
     Minor allegedly subjected to violations of his civil rights during an interrogation by an officer which resulted in charges for sexual offenses being brought against him in juvenile court failed to show that the officer acted under an official city policy or custom as required to hold the city liable. W. P., a minor, v. City of Dayton, No. 22549, 2009 Ohio App. Lexis 70 (2nd Dist.).
      Child welfare caseworker who interviewed a brother and sister at a private school as part of a child abuse investigation was not entitled to qualified immunity for examining the children's bodies, including under their clothes, for signs of abuse. Consent from the school's principal for the interviews did not extend to a search of the children's bodies, and their right to be free from unreasonable searches under these circumstances, absent a warrant, probable cause, exigent circumstances, or valid consent, was clearly established. Michael C. v. Gresbach, No. 07-1756, 2008 U.S. App. Lexis 10805 (7th Cir.).
     A twelve-year-old child was interrogated away from his mother and a prosecutor then ordered police to arrest him in connection with the death of a toddler. His conviction was subsequently overturned on the basis of a coerced confession in violation of the Fifth Amendment. He subsequently filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the prosecutor and her employer for alleged violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. After the lawsuit was filed, the prosecutor allegedly told a Marine recruiter that the plaintiff would "always" be a suspect in the murder, resulting in the rejection of his enlistment. A federal appeals court overturned qualified immunity for the prosecutor, ruling that the prosecutor could not reasonably have believed that there was probable cause for the arrest. The court also ordered further proceedings on claims against the county based on its alleged withholding of exculpatory (Brady) materials, and on the Plaintiff's malicious prosecution, First Amendment retaliation, and defamation claims. Harris v. Bornhorst, No. 06-3729, 2008 U.S. App. Lexis 724 (6th Cir.).
     Because a ruling in a federal civil rights lawsuit that a minor's confession to involvement in the murder of his mother would necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction, under a plea bargain to plead "no contest", of accessory after the fact, he was barred from pursuing his claim for coercive interrogation when the conviction had not been set aside or reversed, under the principles established in Heck v. Humphrey, #93-6188, 512 U.S. 477 (1994).
     Federal appeals court rules that the adjudication in juvenile court, while not a criminal proceeding under state law, was properly viewed as the "functional equivalent" of a criminal proceeding for purposes of the application of the rule in Heck. Morris v. City of Detroit, No. 06-1367, 2006 U.S. App. Lexis 30948 (6th Cir.). [N/R]
     Police officer's misrepresentations to teenager's mother that he would be questioned nearby and only for an hour concerning investigation into triple murder, allegedly made to obtain consent to his removal from the home, and resulting in him being taken to another county, interrogated for four hours, subjected to a polygraph exam, and being denied requests to leave, be with his mother, or see a lawyer, if true, would violate child's clearly established constitutional rights. Myers v. Potter, No. 04-6022, 2005 U.S. App. Lexis 19248 (6th Cir.). [2005 LR Oct]
     Although detectives' interrogation of an eleven-year-old girl, which produced her confession of involvement in the death of a two year old, was custodial and produced an involuntary statement in violation of her Fifth Amendment rights, the questioning detectives could not be held liable for her subsequent prosecution and conviction, later overturned. A decision by the trial judge to admit her confession was superseding cause of her damages. Murray v. Earle, No. 03-51379, 2005 U.S. App. Lexis 5220 (5th Cir. 2005). [2005 LR May]
     Even if murder confessions officers obtained from juvenile suspects were coerced, they could not be held liable under federal civil rights law for violation of the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination when the statements obtained were not used against the suspects in a criminal trial, but only in grand jury proceedings leading to their indictment and in a hearing to determine whether they should be tried as adults. Crowe v. County of San Diego, 303 F. Supp. 2d 1050 (S.D. Cal. 2004). [N/R]
     Police officer was not shown to have used investigative techniques in child abuse investigation that were "so coercive and abusive" that he knew or should have known that they would yield false information. Officer had probable cause for arrest of suspect even if portions of his affidavit supporting the arrest were inaccurate as to the number of child victims who had told the officer the arrestee had sexually abused them. Gausvik v. Perez, No. 02-35902, 345 F.3d 813 (9th Cir. 2003). [2004 LR Feb]
     344:122 Officers investigating child sexual abuse allegations had a duty, under Washington state law, to avoid negligence in doing so; appeals court reinstates lawsuit by parents arrested but later acquitted of involvement in child sex ring; improper interrogation techniques during interviews with children alleged. Rodriguez v. City of Wenatchee, # 43812-3-I, 994 P.2d 874 (Wash. App. 2000).
     340:59 Even if the techniques used to interview child complainants were improper and coercive, nursery school teacher indicted and prosecuted for alleged sexual abuse of children could not recover damages since these interrogation techniques did not violate her own constitutional rights; prosecutors were entitled to absolute immunity for presenting children's testimony to grand jury and at trial. Michaels v. New Jersey, #99-5486, 222 F.3d 118 (3rd Cir. 2000).
     314:26 Interrogations by detective squad of juveniles facing possible delinquency charges would not be enjoined by federal court; case-by-case determination as to whether interrogations were coercive was required; proper remedy for any alleged violation of Miranda rights was suppression of incriminating statements rather than federal civil rights claim. Deshawn v. Safir, #97-7410, 156 F.3d 340 (2nd Cir. 1998).
     309:136 Officer's alleged threats to eleven year old female student in guidance counselor's office that she would be in a lot of trouble unless she answered his questions about her parents' alleged drug use, combined with promise that nothing would happen if she did provide information, was conduct "shocking to the conscience." Grendell v. Gillway, 974 F.Supp. 46 (D. Me. 1997).

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