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In re H.F.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fifth District, Dallas

August 23, 2019


          On Appeal from the 305th Judicial District Court Dallas County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. JD-18-01302-X

          Before Justices Schenck, Osborne, and Reichek



         H.F. is a juvenile charged with one count of capital murder and two counts of aggravated robbery against three different complainants in three separate incidents, occurring on three consecutive days. Tex. Penal Code Ann. §§ 19.03, 29.03. Upon petition of the State, the juvenile court certified H.F. to be tried as an adult and transferred his case to a criminal district court. On appeal, H.F. contends the juvenile court abused its discretion in waiving its jurisdiction and transferring his case because the evidence introduced at the hearing on the State's petition established there are sufficient safeguards in place for the public and a very high probability of rehabilitation for H.F. by use of procedures, services, and facilities currently available to the juvenile court. We affirm the transfer order. Because all issues are settled in law, we issue this memorandum opinion. Tex.R.App.P. 47.4.


         H.F. was charged with three first-degree felony offenses alleged to have occurred on October 21, 22, and 23 of 2018. He was sixteen years old at the time. In November 2018, the State filed a petition for discretionary transfer asking the juvenile court to waive its jurisdiction and transfer H.F.'s case to adult criminal court. See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 54.02. The juvenile court ordered the psychological evaluation and social study required by family code section 54.02(d). H.F. met with the probation officer assigned to conduct the social study but refused to meet the psychologist assigned to conduct the psychological evaluation.

         After the evaluation was completed, the juvenile court conducted a hearing regarding the State's petition seeking to transfer H.F.'s case to a criminal district court.[1] At the hearing, the juvenile court took judicial notice of the Social Evaluation and Investigation Report and the memorandum of psychologist Dr. John Pita, stating H.F. refused to be evaluated. The report and memorandum were already on file with the court.

         The Social Evaluation and Investigative Report indicates H.F. had been arrested on five prior occasions by the Dallas, Lancaster, and Wilmer Police Departments. He had eight referrals to the Dallas County Juvenile Department, which included multiple adjudications, his probation being extended and him being ordered to several placement facilities. The report sets forth the current offenses of capital murder and aggravated robbery and the circumstances surrounding those offenses-which are detailed more fully below in the recounting of the detectives' testimony-as well as identifying the prior offenses, including terroristic threats, violation of probation, burglary of habitation, evading arrest, criminal mischief, and engaging in organized criminal activity, and the dispositions of those offenses. The report identifies prior placements at the Dallas County Youth Village, the START Program and the Dallas County Juvenile Residential Drug Treatment Program and set forth various problems H.F. had during those placements. The report indicates that while H.F. was on probation he failed to participate in his court-ordered programs, used illegal drugs, committed additional offenses, and endangered the lives of himself and others. The officer who prepared the report states his belief H.F.'s level of sophistication is excessive, as compared to others of a similar age. The report indicates H.F. has a history of associating with older individuals who have criminal histories and are negative influences. The report concludes that the prospects of adequate protection of the public and the likelihood of rehabilitation with service, procedures, and facilities currently available to the juvenile court are remote with respect to H.F. The report further indicates that, "[d]ue to the subject's pending referrals; his current age; his drug use history; his continued association with older and negative peers who have criminal histories; his continued lack of respect for authority figures and his conditions of probation; his lack of respect for a person's life; and his continued history of delinquent conduct, rehabilitation of the subject within the Juvenile Justice System is remote." The probation officer concludes the report with a recommendation that the State's petition for discretionary transfer be granted.

         In addition to the social study, at the hearing, the State presented testimony from three detectives and the probation officer who conducted the study. H.F. presented testimony from a friend of the family, his mother, and a clinical coordinator for the Dallas County Juvenile Department Residential Drug Treatment Program.

         At the hearing, Detective Adam Mayorga testified he investigated a robbery that occurred during the early hours of October 21, 2018 at a gas station in Irving. Two males were alleged to have approached a 72-year-old woman while she was feeding cats at the gas station, which was closed at the time. One of the men pointed a gun at her and demanded the keys to her car. She ran to a convenience store located across the street and called 9-1-1. The men took off in her car, which was later found in the city of Wilmer on the side of the highway. Detectives found H.F.'s fingerprints on the driver's side door of the car. Detective Mayorga testified that detectives retrieved the surveillance video from the gas station which showed two males approaching the complainant, with one of them pointing a gun at her before she fled on foot. Detective Mayorga indicated he watched the video of a Lancaster Police Department officer's interview of H.F. During that interview, H.F. confessed to having committed the offense. He refused to identify his accomplice.

         Detective Jason Tapscott testified he investigated another robbery that occurred on October 22, 2018 at approximately 8:30 p.m. at an apartment complex in Lancaster. The complainant stated she was approached by two young Hispanic males wearing red hoodies. She stated one of the males pointed a gun at her head and the other said, "shoot her man, shoot her man, she's lying." They took her purse and car. The car was recovered in Dallas on Zang Boulevard near Saner Road. Detective Tapscott sat in on the interview of H.F. in connection with the investigation of a murder that occurred the next day. During the interview, H.F. initially claimed he did not remember if he was involved in the Lancaster robbery because he was high on "lean," but later confessed to the robbery. H.F. described the vehicle, what was taken and admitted that he was the individual who pointed the gun at the complainant.

         Detective Jay Rohack testified he investigated the murder of Larry Hearn, which occurred on October 23, 2018. Hearn lived in Lancaster and had returned to his home on his lunch break. His neighbors reported hearing a single gunshot. They went outside and saw Hearn laying on the ground between the street and the sidewalk and noticed Hearn's vehicle, which was parked on the street, was running. The neighbors called the Lancaster Police Department. When the police arrived, they observed Hearn was bleeding, and administered CPR until paramedics arrived. After paramedics arrived, Hearn was transported to a hospital where he was later pronounced dead. Police received an anonymous tip that the offense had been committed by a Hispanic male identified by his first name only, that name being the same as H.F.'s. The tipster told police the individual came out of the woods, got into an argument with Hearn, and shot him. Given the information relayed to Detective Rohack, including the Hutchins Police Department's notification that it was investigating H.F. and his brother concerning numerous robberies, he suspected H.F. might be the individual the tipster identified. He contacted H.F.'s mother by telephone and asked her where H.F. was. She said she did not know and indicated that he had been released from a detention center two weeks prior, was on probation, and took off running as soon as he got home. She advised that the Hutchins Police Department had H.F.'s brother in custody and they were looking for H.F. H.F.'s mother stated she could not control H.F. or his brother. Another anonymous tipster reported H.F. could be found at an apartment complex located in South Dallas. Thereafter, with a few additional tips, Dallas police found H.F. They brought him into custody and took him to the Lancaster Police Department.

         Detective Rohack testified that, thereafter, Judge Henry Campbell was contacted and H.F. was placed in the juvenile processing room. Detectives Rohack and Tapscott were present when H.F. gave a statement after waiving his Miranda rights. H.F. spoke not only about shooting Hearn, but also about the offenses that occurred on October 21 and 22. Detective Rohack showed H.F. a picture of Hearn and H.F. acknowledged that he tried to rob Hearn of his vehicle at gun point and that he shot him after he gave him the wrong set of keys. At that point, H.F. claimed he ran into nearby woods and threw away the gun. H.F. told the detectives he was the one with the gun in the October 21 and 22 robberies. Detective Rohack further stated he asked H.F. if he had anything to say to Hearn's family, and H.F. replied "no". Detective Rohack further asked, "do you not care? Do you not have any remorse?" to which H.F. responded, "no, I don't care about them."

         Detective Rohack also testified that his department had investigated H.F. in connection with other robberies and that H.F. has a pattern of law offending. Detective Rohack indicated he believed H.F. was a member of, or associated with, a gang calling themselves ...

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