Tuesday July 7th, 2020 9:25AM

Parents of Florida murder suspect refuse to answer questions

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The parents of the 24-year-old man suspected in a string of fatal shootings that terrorized a Florida neighborhood must "show cause" on why they shouldn't be held in civil contempt for refusing to answer investigators' questions about the case, a judge ruled Thursday.

Hillsborough County Judge Margaret Taylor set a Jan. 5 hearing for Howell Donaldson Jr. and Rosita Donaldson. State Attorney Andrew Warren requested the hearing after the Donaldsons refused on Tuesday to answer questions about their son, Howell Emanuel Donaldson III. Prosecutors were seeking information about his background, developmental history, gun possession and state of mind.

"This is a rarity," State Attorney Andrew Warren said while addressing the issue on Wednesday. "Because most people understand that they have a duty to answer questions. And when that duty is explained to them by a judge, they're willing to provide us answers."

Ralph Fernandez, an attorney for the couple, said they haven't slept much since their son was arrested Nov. 28 and charged with four counts of first-degree murder for the apparently random shootings that began in early October in Tampa's Seminole Heights neighborhood.

In motions filed Wednesday, the state attorney's office said the parents' refusal to testify despite having received a court-authorized subpoena constitutes indirect criminal contempt. The judge questioned whether the goal was to punish the parents or simply to get them to comply with subpoenas. Taylor ruled that the couple must "show cause" that they shouldn't be held in civil contempt.

Assistant State Attorney Jay Pruner told the judge that the state believes there is no privilege that allows the Donaldsons to avoid answering questions, which is what prosecutors were seeking when they requested the hearing.

The parents were being interviewed in separate rooms Tuesday when they refused to continue answering questions.

The Tampa Bay Times reports Rosita Donaldson told investigators she and her husband also have a 28-year-old daughter and a 13-year-old son. She said the family had frequent gatherings around the holidays.

"Thanksgiving everyone was at our house," she said, before her attorney told her that if she wanted to refuse to talk she could just say no.

When investigators asked if she would continue, she declined, adding, "With all due respect, I'm not answering any more questions."

"We're not only trying to build a case against the defendant, we're trying to ask the broader question of why — a question that the victims' families and the community deserves to have answered," Warren, the state attorney, said Wednesday.

Unlike some states, Florida has no law establishing "parent-child privilege," which would keep communications between them confidential.

___

Information from: Tampa Bay Times (St. Petersburg, Fla.), http://www.tampabay.com.

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, Top U.S. News short headlines
© Copyright 2020 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Judge weighs 2 decades in prison for ex-cop's fatal shooting
A federal judge says a white former South Carolina police officer committed second-degree murder when he shot an unarmed black motorist to death and should expect to spend about two decades in prison
11:31AM ( 2 minutes ago )
Judge rules ex-South Carolina cop committed murder
A federal judge has ruled that a former South Carolina officer committed second-degree murder when he shot an unarmed black motorist to death
10:32AM ( 1 hour ago )
The Latest: Judge: Ex-South Carolina cop committed murder
A federal judge has ruled that a former South Carolina officer committed second-degree murder when he shot an unarmed black motorist to death
10:16AM ( 1 hour ago )
U.S. News
Judge weighs 2 decades in prison for ex-cop's fatal shooting
A federal judge says a white former South Carolina police officer committed second-degree murder when he shot an unarmed black motorist to death and should expect to spend about two decades in prison
11:31AM ( 2 minutes ago )
Judge rules ex-South Carolina cop committed murder
A federal judge has ruled that a former South Carolina officer committed second-degree murder when he shot an unarmed black motorist to death
10:32AM ( 1 hour ago )
The Latest: Judge: Ex-South Carolina cop committed murder
A federal judge has ruled that a former South Carolina officer committed second-degree murder when he shot an unarmed black motorist to death
10:16AM ( 1 hour ago )
Major Southern California freeway closed amid wildfire fight
Authorities closed a major freeway Thursday as flames from the largest and most destructive Southern California wildfire jumped lanes and churned toward coastal and mountain communities northwest of Los Angeles
9:56AM ( 1 hour ago )
The Latest: Surge in California fire brings new evacuations
A surge from the biggest of the wildfires burning in Southern California has forced several thousand more people to evacuate in a community of artists and resorts
9:01AM ( 2 hours ago )