The recent case of an alleged serial killer in Tampa, Fla., raises an interesting question—namely, should parents be forced to participate in the conviction of their child if it could quite literally mean the death of their offspring? Would your mother do it? Could you snitch out your own child? More important, in this specific scenario, who gives the stitches?
A Florida judge has placed the parents of suspected serial killer Howell Donaldson III under house arrest for refusing to testify against their son, who is charged with four counts of first-degree murder. The Tampa Bay Times reports that Judge Mark Wolfe found Howell Donaldson Jr. and Rosita Donaldson, the parents of the suspect, to be in indirect contempt of court and sentenced them to six months of home confinement.
The judge notes that prosecutors have not asked the parents to incriminate their son. The state attorney says they only want to discuss the son’s past history, mental well-being and whereabouts at the time of the crimes. Still, the Donaldsons have refused to cooperate in any way.
“The defendants have willfully and intentionally refused to provide truthful testimony as ordered through the investigative subpoena and the judge’s order,” Wolfe said.
State Attorney Andrew Warren says he believes that his prosecution team has enough evidence to prosecute the crime, but they are fearful that the accused murderer’s parents could remain silent throughout the hearing and provide an alibi after he is convicted.
“If they’re going to come up with some excuse for on the night of this murder he was home eating pizza with us, the community, the victims’ families and the state attorney’s office have a right to hear that,” Warren said.
I’m pretty sure that the responsibility of removing the possibility of reasonable doubt in a prosecution belongs to the person whose job title is “prosecutor.” I’m not a legal scholar or anything, but I watched 1,023,744 episodes of Law & Order, which is the same as an associate degree in lawyering.
While every state has laws against forcing spouses to testify against each other, only certain states have similar laws protecting parents from having to testify against their children. Of course, Florida is not one of those states because everything goes in Florida. A crocodile can get a driver’s license in Florida. You can get butt implants in convenience stores in Florida. A 19-year-old can buy an AR-15 from a vending machine in Florida.
The parents will be confined to their home for a period of six months, which will be lifted if they decide to cooperate with the state. At the end of the term, which comes on Aug. 14, state attorneys will decide whether or not to pursue further punishment.
Prosecutors have stated that they will seek the death penalty against 24-year-old Howell Donaldson III for the deaths of Benjamin Mitchell, 22; Monica Hoffa, 32; Anthony Naiboa, 20; and Ronald Felton, 60, during a 51-day period of terror for the Tampa neighborhood of Seminole Heights.