Murray v. Earle ( 2005 )

  •                                                          United States Court of Appeals
                                                                      Fifth Circuit
                                                                   F I L E D
                          REVISED APRIL 13, 2005
                  IN THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS            March 31, 2005
                             FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT             Charles R. Fulbruge III
                                 No. 03-51379
    DAYNA BLAZEY, Individually and as an Assistant District Attorney of
    Travis County, Texas; STEPHANIE EMMONS, Individually and as an
    Assistant District Attorney of Travis County, Texas; ANGELA MCGOWN,
    Individually and as Supervisor of the Travis County Child
    Protective Services; HECTOR REVELES, Individually and as a
    Detective of the Austin Police Department; ERNEST PEDRAZA,
    Individually and as a Detective of the Austin Police Department;
    ALBERT EELS, Individually and as a Detective of the Austin Police
              Appeal from the United States District Court
                   for the Northern District of Texas
    Before WIENER and PRADO, Circuit Judges, and KINKEADE,* District
    WIENER, Circuit Judge:
         Defendants-appellants Dayna Blazey, Stephanie Emmons, Hector
           District Judge, Northern District of Texas, sitting by
    Reveles, Angela McGown, Ernest Pedraza and Albert Eells appeal the
    district court’s denial of their motion for summary judgment on the
    grounds of immunity under federal and state law.            They contend on
    appeal   that   they   should   not    be   held   liable   for   coercing   a
    confession from the minor plaintiff-appellee, LaCresha Murray,
    which ultimately led to her later-reversed conviction (and lengthy
    incarceration) for injury to a child.1          We reverse.
                            I.   FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS
         This case arises out of the investigation of plaintiff-
    appellee LaCresha Murray’s (“LaCresha”) involvement in the death of
    Jayla Belton, age two, in 1996.             At the time of these events,
    LaCresha was eleven years old.        She and her siblings lived with her
    grandparents, R.L. and Shirley Murray, who were her adoptive
    parents, as well.      The Murrays also provided daycare in their home
    for several other children.
         Late in May of 1996, Jayla, who was routinely cared for by the
    Murrays, was dropped off at the Murray home by her mother’s
    boyfriend.   During the course of the day, Jayla appeared to be ill.
    After she vomited at the lunch table, LaCresha’s older sister,
    Shawntay, gave Jayla some medication and put her to bed.              No one
    checked on Jayla until later that day. R.L. Murray testified that,
    late in the afternoon, LaCresha came in from outside and went to
            In Texas, juvenile criminal adjudications are civil in
    nature, therefore, LaCresha’s conviction is for a civil, not
    criminal, offense.
    the back of the house, near the bedroom where Jayla was sleeping.
    R.L. then heard “thumping noises,” but he assumed that LaCresha was
    playing with a ball and told her to stop.               Shortly after that,
    LaCresha told R.L. that Jayla was throwing up and shaking.                   He
    asked her to bring Jayla to the front of the house, where he
    observed that Jayla appeared ill.          He told Lacresha to take Jayla
    outside to warm her up.
           At 5:00 p.m., another parent arrived to collect her children
    and noticed that Jayla was sweating profusely.               That parent urged
    R.L. to call 911, but he declined to do so.         R.L. took Jayla to the
    hospital, however; she was pronounced dead at approximately 5:30
           An autopsy conducted the following day revealed that Jayla had
    suffered a severe liver injury caused by a blunt blow to the
    abdomen.      This trauma had broken four of her ribs and split her
    liver into two pieces.        The medical examiner concluded that Jayla
    had died within five to fifteen minutes after receiving the injury
    and    also   noted   some   thirty   other   bruises   to    her   head,   ear,
    forehead, back, shoulder, elbow, chest, and the left side of her
    torso.    The examiner ruled Jayla’s death a homicide.
           That same day, law-enforcement authorities removed all the
    children from the Murray home.        They placed LaCresha and one of her
    sisters in Texas Baptist Children’s Home, a private shelter for
    children which contracts with the State to provide foster care. At
    the time that these children were removed from their adoptive
    parents’ home, the authorities believed that they were in danger.
    There is some dispute as to exactly when the police first began to
    suspect that LaCresha had killed Jayla, but the focus of the
    investigation had quickly shifted to LaCresha after law-enforcement
    authorities spoke with other members of the household.
         Three days after LaCresha had been removed from her adoptive
    parents’ home, Detective Reveles directed Detectives Pedraza and
    Eels, along with Angela McGown, the supervisor of the Travis County
    Child Protective Services, to interview LaCresha. It is undisputed
    that, by this time, the police no longer feared for LaCresha’s
    safety but instead considered her a suspect in Jayla’s death.
         Before the interview of LaCresha, Detectives Reveles and
    Pedraza consulted with assistant district attorney Emmons on the
    proper method of interrogating LaCresha.    Emmons testified that,
    even though LaCresha had been at the Texas Baptist Children’s Home
    for three days, none of the officials believed that she was in the
    custody of the State.   In their minds, this obviated the need for
    them to take her before a magistrate, as required by Texas law for
    children who are in state custody.   Pedraza and Eels gave LaCresha
    a Miranda warning before beginning to interrogate her, but they did
    not take her before a magistrate or notify her parents or attorney.
         The detectives questioned LaCresha at the Baptist Children’s
    Home for approximately two hours, eventually eliciting a confession
    that she had dropped Jayla and kicked her.                  The State then charged
    her with capital murder and injury to a child; the juvenile court
    ruled her confession admissible; and the jury convicted her of
    negligent homicide and injury to a child.                     Extensive publicity
    followed, presumably influencing the juvenile court to order a new
    trial on its own motion.             At the second trial, the State charged
    LaCresha with injury to a child; her confession was again admitted;
    and the second jury convicted her.               The juvenile court adjudicated
    LaCresha delinquent and sentenced her to twenty-five years in the
    custody of the Texas Youth Commission.
          Three      years     later,    the   Texas    Court    of    Appeals   reversed
    LaCresha’s conviction.2             The appellate court ruled that LaCresha
    had   been      in   the   custody    of   the     State,   that    law-enforcement
    authorities had violated Texas law by not taking her before a
    magistrate prior to interrogating her, and that her confession was
    therefore inadmissible.3
          LaCresha then brought suit in district court for damages
    against numerous individuals, some of whom were only tangentially
    related to the LaCresha’s judicial proceedings, asserting various
    violations of her constitutional and state rights.                   On motions for
    summary judgment, the district court dismissed all her claims
    except those against the Defendants——Appellants (collectively, “the
           In re L.M., 
    993 S.W.2d 276
    , 291 (Tex. App. – Austin 1999,
    pet. denied).
    defendants”) for violations of her Fifth Amendment right against
    self-incrimination     and   for    state   law   civil   conspiracy.   The
    defendants now appeal the denial of their summary judgment motions
    for qualified immunity on LaCresha’s Fifth Amendment claims and for
    official immunity under state law on her civil conspiracy claims.
         We have jurisdiction over both appeals.               A defendant may
    immediately appeal the denial of qualified immunity, even though it
    is not a “final decision” under 28 U.S.C. § 1291.4            The Texas law
    of official immunity provides the same protection against both
    suit and liability as does the federal doctrine, so we also have
    jurisdiction to review denial of state law immunity claims on
    interlocutory appeal.5
                                  II.    ANALYSIS
    A.   Standard of Review
         We review denials of grants of summary judgment de novo.6
    Summary judgment may be granted if the moving party shows there is
    no genuine issue of material fact, and it is entitled to judgment
    as a matter of law.7     We construe all facts and inferences in the
    light most favorable to the nonmoving party when reviewing grants
             Mitchell v. Forsyth, 
    472 U.S. 511
    , 524-25 (1985).
           Roe v. Tex. Dep’t of Protective & Regulatory Servs., 
    299 F.3d 395
    , 413 (5th Cir. 2002).
           Tex. Med. Ass’n v. Aetna Life Ins. Co., 
    80 F.3d 153
    , 156
    (5th Cir. 1996).
           Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
    477 U.S. 242
    , 247-48 (1986).
    of motions for summary judgment.8
    B.   Fifth Amendment Violation: Qualified Immunity
         In undertaking a qualified immunity analysis, we must first
    determine whether the plaintiff has suffered a violation of his
    constitutional rights and, if so, whether a reasonable official
    should    have   known   that   he    was     violating     the    plaintiff’s
    constitutional rights.9    The district court held that, under these
    narrow circumstances —— an eleven-year-old child is removed from
    her home, housed at a private shelter by the State for three days,
    interrogated there for hours by two seasoned investigators to the
    point of    confession   without     an    adult   or   advocate   present   to
    represent her interests, and is convicted largely on the strength
    of that confession —— the child may, after the conviction is
    overturned on the grounds that the confession was inadmissible, sue
    under § 1983 for damages she suffered as a result of the violation
    of her constitutional rights.10           On appeal, the defendants insist
           Hart v. O’Brien, 
    127 F.3d 424
    , 435 (5th Cir. 1997), cert
    5525 U.S. 1103
           Hope v. Pelzer, 
    536 U.S. 730
    , 736, 739 (2002). Defendants
    Emmons and Blazey are each prosecuting attorneys in Travis
    County, however, they are entitled to claim only qualified
    immunity rather than the absolute immunity normally enjoyed by
    prosecutors. LaCresha is suing them for the legal advice which
    they provided the police investigators, for which they are not
    entitled to absolute immunity. See Burns v. Reed, 
    500 U.S. 478
    496 (1992)(holding that absolute immunity does not protect the
    prosecutorial function of giving advice to the police).
           LaCresha spent three years in juvenile detention as a
    result of her conviction.
    that, even if LaCresha’s right against self-incrimination was
    violated, § 1983 does not, or at least should not, provide her with
    a remedy.     We hold that, because LaCresha cannot demonstrate that
    defendants acted unreasonably, in that their actions did not
    proximately cause the damages that she suffered, she may not
    maintain a Fifth Amendment cause of action against them under §
         1.     Constitutional Violation
         It is axiomatic that a criminal defendant’s constitutional
    rights have been violated “if his conviction is based, in whole or
    in part, on an involuntary confession, regardless of its truth or
    falsity.”11       The   Fifth   Amendment   privilege   against   self-
    incrimination is a fundamental trial right which can be violated
    only at trial, even though pre-trial conduct by law enforcement
    officials may ultimately impair that right.12      The constitutional
    privilege against self-incrimination adheres in juvenile court
    proceedings just as it does in ordinary criminal court.13     In fact,
           Miranda v. Arizona, 
    384 U.S. 436
    , 465 n.33 (1966). The
    Supreme Court has held that § 1983 plaintiffs do not have a Fifth
    Amendment claim against law-enforcement officials who have
    elicited unlawful confessions if those confessions are not then
    introduced against the plaintiffs in criminal proceedings. This
    case is distinguishable, as LaCresha’s statement was admitted at
    trial and did result in her conviction. See Chavez v. Martinez,
    538 U.S. 760
           Chavez, 538 U.S. at 767; United States v. Verdugo-
    494 U.S. 259
    , 264 (1990)(internal citations omitted).
              In re Gault, 
    387 U.S. 1
    , 30-31, 55 (1967).
    states must take greater care to protect juveniles against coerced
    confessions during police interrogations, because children are more
    likely to be induced to confess, and their confessions are less
    likely to be reliable.14
              a.     Custodial Interrogation
         An   individual’s      Fifth     Amendment        right    against   self-
    incrimination      is    implicated        only   during        a    “custodial”
    interrogation.15         The   Supreme        Court      defines     “custodial
    interrogation”     as   “questioning       initiated     by    law   enforcement
    officers after a person has been taken into custody.”16                A suspect
    is “in custody” for these purposes either (1) when he is formally
    arrested or (2) “when a reasonable person in the position of the
    suspect would understand the situation to constitute a restraint on
    freedom of movement to the degree that the law associates with
    formal arrest.”17       We review de novo the question whether an
           Id. at 55. “[A]uthoritative opinion has cast formidable
    doubt upon the reliability and trustworthiness of ‘confessions’
    by children.” Id. at 52.
           See Illinois v. Perkins, 
    496 U.S. 292
    , 296 (1990)(citing
    Miranda, 384 U.S. at 444); United States v. Gonzales, 
    121 F.3d 928
    , 939 (5th Cir. 1997)(“It is axiomatic that ‘the Fifth
    Amendment privilege against self-incrimination prohibits
    admitting statements given by a suspect during ‘custodial
    interrogation’ without a prior warning.’”)(quoting Perkins, 496
    U.S. at 296).
           Gonzales, 121 F.3d at 939 (5th Cir. 1997)(citing Perkins,
    496 U.S. at 296)(internal quotations omitted).
           Gonzales, 121 F.3d at 940 n.6 (citing United States v.
    846 F.2d 983
    , 986 n.1 (5th Cir. 1988) and United States
    v. Bengivenga, 
    845 F.2d 593
    , 596 (5th Cir.)(en banc), cert
    interrogation was custodial.18
         The district court relied heavily on the reasoning of the
    Texas Court of Appeals in determining whether LaCresha was in the
    custody of the State during her interrogation. The Texas appellate
    court’s initial determination whether LaCresha was in custody,
    though     addressing   the   federal   constitutional   standard   for
    “custodial interrogations,” was undertaken solely for the purposes
    of the Texas law requiring that, if so, she should have been taken
    before a magistrate before the police questioned her.19             This
    inquiry is apposite but not determinative of our de novo federal
    constitutional inquiry regarding “in custody,” i.e., whether a
    reasonable person in LaCresha’s position would have understood that
    his liberty was constrained to the extent associated with formal
         On the latter issue, the Texas appellate court held, in
    contrast to the Texas trial court, that LaCresha’s interrogation
    was custodial, adopting and applying a “reasonable child” standard.
    The court asked whether, under these circumstances, a reasonable
    child of eleven would have believed that her freedom of movement
    488 U.S. 924
              United States v. Paul, 
    142 F.3d 836
    , 843 (5th Cir. 1998).
            Texas law requires that a child be taken before a
    magistrate before interrogation if the child is in a detention
    facility or other place of confinement. Tex. Fam. Code. §
    was constrained to the degree associated with formal arrest.20        The
    appellate court emphasized that LaCresha was involuntarily removed
    from her home by the State and placed in a children’s shelter
    pursuant to emergency provisions of section 262 of the Texas Family
    Code.21 The state appellate court agreed with the state trial court
    that, for purposes of evaluating whether LaCresha was “in custody”
    for purposes of Texas state law, the Texas Baptist Children’s home
    was not a jail or detention facility.22              The appellate court
    diverged from the trial court, however, in ruling that (1) because
    the shelter assumed all duties of care and control over children
    residing there, it was a place of confinement; and (2) practically
    speaking, LaCresha was not free to leave, as she would have had to
    “run away” from the shelter, and she had no means of returning to
    her home.23     Although the determination that the shelter was a
    “place of confinement” under Texas state law is not directly
    relevant to the question whether LaCresha was in custody during the
    ensuing interrogation,     the   state   appellate    court’s   underlying
    determinations regarding the degree of restriction over LaCresha’s
    movement imposed by the state is relevant to whether she would have
           In re L.M., 
    993 S.W.2d 276
    , 289 (Tex. App. —— Austin,
    1999, pet. denied).
              See Tex. Fam. Code. § 51.095(d)(1).
           In re L.M. 
    993 S.W.2d 276
    , 289 (Tex. App. —— Austin,
    1999, pet. denied).
    felt her liberty to be constrained.
          The defendants protest that we ought not consider a suspect’s
    age in evaluating whether he was “in custody” for purposes of a
    Fifth Amendment violation.            Rather, they assert, we must use an
    objective test, asking only whether a reasonable person, not a
    reasonable      child,    would    have   concluded    that    his   liberty     was
    constrained.24        The Supreme Court has endorsed this approach when
    confronted with an interrogation of a seventeen-year-old suspect,
    but the      Court’s     conclusion   rested     on   the   assertion     that   the
    “custody inquiry states an objective rule designed to give clear
    guidance     to   the    police,    while      consideration    of   a    suspect’s
    individual characteristics —— including his age —— could be viewed
    as   creating     a   subjective    inquiry.”25       Justice   O’Connor      wrote
    separately to emphasize that “[t]here may be cases in which a
    suspect’s age will be relevant to the Miranda ‘custody’ inquiry”
    but that in Yarborough, the defendant was almost eighteen years old
    and it would be difficult “to expect police to recognize that a
    suspect is a juvenile when he is so close to the age of majority.”26
          The case of an eleven-year-old is different.                       The police
    should have no difficulty recognizing that their suspect is a
    juvenile and adjusting their determination whether the suspect
           See United States v. Gonzales, 
    121 F.3d 928
    , 940 n.6 (5th
    Cir. 1997)(citations omitted).
               Yarborough v. Alvarado, 
    124 S. Ct. 2140
    , 2151-52 (2004).
               Yarborough, 124 S.Ct. at 2152 (O’Connor, J., concurring).
    would      understand   his   freedom   of   movement      to   be   constrained
    accordingly.       In any event, even if we were to ignore LaCresha’s
    age at the time of her interrogation, we would still conclude that
    a reasonable individual of any age who is removed involuntarily
    from his home, housed by the State for three days, not informed
    that he is free to leave, and questioned by two police detectives
    in a closed interrogation room, would believe that his liberty was
    constrained to the degree associated with formal arrest.27               We hold
    that LaCresha was “in custody” for purposes of evaluating her
                  b.   Involuntary Confession
          Next, we must determine whether the statement that LaCresha
    gave while in custody was involuntary, making its introduction at
    her   criminal     trial   violative    of   her   Fifth   Amendment    rights.
    Although LaCresha’s statement was taken in violation of Texas law,
    this alone did not automatically produce a violation of her Fifth
           See United States v. Collins, 
    972 F.2d 1385
    , 1405 (5th
    Cir. 1992)(“[T]he most obvious and effective means of
    demonstrating that a suspect has not been taken into custody ‘is
    for the police to inform the suspect that an arrest is not being
    made and that the suspect may terminate the interview at
    will.’”)(citing United States. v. Griffin, 
    922 F.2d 1343
    , 1349
    (8th Cir. 1990)); United States v. Harrell, 
    894 F.2d 120
    , 124
    n.1 (5th Cir. 1990)(“We agree with the defendant that a detention
    of approximately an hour raises considerable suspicion,” though
    declining to establish a bright-line rule for when a suspect’s
    interrogation becomes custodial); United States v. Bengivenga,
    845 F.2d 593
    , 600 (5th Cir. 1988)(holding that 90-second, routine
    citizenship check at Mexican border did not constitute custodial
    interrogation). Here, the act of the police in administering a
    Miranda warning should confirm their own belief that LaCresha was
    in custody.
    Amendment rights.28      Once we have concluded that a juvenile’s
    interrogation was custodial, we determine whether such a suspect’s
    confession is coerced or involuntary by examining the totality of
    the circumstances surrounding the child’s interrogation.29           In
    addition to the fact that the interrogation was conducted in
    violation of state law, our examination includes consideration of
    the   juvenile’s    “age,   experience,   education,   background,   and
    intelligence, and into whether he has the capacity to understand
    the warnings given him, the nature of his Fifth Amendment rights,
    and the consequences of waiving those rights.”30       The Supreme Court
    has admonished that the police are required to take special care to
    ensure the voluntariness of a minor suspect’s confession:
          If counsel was not present for some permissible reason
          when an admission was obtained, the greatest care must
          be taken to assure that the admission was voluntary,
          in the sense not only that it was not coerced or
          suggested, but also that it was not the product of
          ignorance of rights or of adolescent fantasy, fright
          or despair.31
           See Gagne v. City of Galveston, 
    805 F.2d 558
    , 560 (5th
    Cir. 1986); United States v. Wilderness, 
    160 F.3d 1173
    , 1175
    (7th Cir. 1998)(“Indiana would not have permitted [the juvenile
    plaintiff’s] confession to be used in a state prosecution. . .
    But . . .the voluntariness of a confession depends on public
    officials’ compliance with constitutional norms, not on any rule
    of state law.”).
           Fare v. Michael C., 
    442 U.S. 707
     (1979); Gachot v.
    298 F.3d 414
    , 418 (5th Cir. 2002).
           Fare, 442 U.S. at 725; Gachot, 298 F.3d at 418-19
    (quoting Fare, 442 U.S. at 725).
               In re Gault, 
    387 U.S. 1
    , 55 (1967).
         Every factor weighed in our analysis militates against the
    conclusion that LaCresha’s statement was voluntary.                At eleven
    years of     age,   she   was   far   younger   than   the   fifteen-year-old
    juvenile suspect whom we held to have voluntarily confessed in
    Gachot v. Stadler.32        She had no experience with the criminal
    justice system, had been held in the custody of the State for three
    days, was unaccompanied by any parent, guardian, attorney, or other
    friendly adult, and was found to have below-normal intelligence by
    the court-appointed psychiatrist prior to her criminal trial, also
    in contrast to the Gachot defendant.33
         LaCresha cannot be held to have knowingly and voluntarily
    waived her rights to be represented by counsel and to remain
    silent.34    Other than having LaCresha sign a Miranda card, and
              298 F.3d at 416, 421.
           Id. (noting that the defendant was accompanied by his
    brother during the interrogation, voluntarily went to the police
    station for questioning, and was there for approximately four
    hours). Compare Fare, 442 U.S. at 726-27 (holding 16 1/2 year-
    old juvenile voluntarily and knowingly waived his Fifth Amendment
    rights during an interrogation as he had considerable experience
    with the police, having a record of several arrests, sufficient
    intelligence to understand the rights he was waiving, and was not
    worn down by improper interrogation tactics or lengthy
    questioning by trickery or deceit) with Haley v. Ohio, 
    332 U.S. 596
     (1948) (holding that a 15-year-old who had been arrested at
    midnight, taken to a police station and subjected to continuous
    interrogation by a rotation of several police officers, without
    counsel or friend, until he confessed to participating in a
    robbery and shooting, had not voluntarily confessed).
           See E.A.W. v. State, 
    547 S.W.2d 63
    , 64 (Tex. Civ. App. ——
    Waco 1977, no writ)(holding that an eleven-year-old child cannot
    knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waive her
    briefly     explaining    her    rights    to       her   at    the    outset    of   the
    interrogation,      the   police    took       no   precautions        to   ensure    the
    voluntariness of her statement, let alone “special care.”                             The
    police made no effort to contact LaCresha’s adoptive parents, and
    the shelter, which had assumed responsibility for her care, sent no
    representative with her to the interrogation.                    LaCresha was never
    told that she was free to leave or that she could call her adoptive
    parents or any other friendly adult.                      In addition, the police
    officers represented to LaCresha that they had already talked to
    everyone in her family, that everyone “knew” what happened, and
    that she could help her family only by telling the truth.                        We hold
    that LaCresha’s statement was involuntary, and that its admission
    at   trial    violated    her    Fifth     Amendment           right   against     self-
    2.    Clearly Established Law
          To overcome a claim of qualified immunity, a plaintiff must
    establish that the right an official is alleged to have violated
    was “clearly established,” i.e., sufficiently clearly defined that
    “a reasonable official would understand that what he is doing
    violates that right.”35         Although there need not be prior case law
    directly     on   point   for   a   constitutional          right      to   be   clearly
    constitutional privilege against self-incrimination after
    spending nine hours, from midnight to nine a.m., in a detention
    facility, and without the guidance of a parent, guardian or
               Anderson v. Creighton, 
    483 U.S. 635
    , 640 (1987).
    established, the state of the law must be such that a reasonable
    officer would be on notice that his actions could violate a
    constitutional    right.36   Defendants   argue   that,   even   assuming
    arguendo that clearly established law should have put them on
    notice that their interrogation of LaCresha was custodial and that
    her statement was not made voluntarily, no clearly established law
    put them on notice that their actions could violate her Fifth
    Amendment rights.
         Defendants assert that a reasonable officer would not have
    understood that his actions could have violated LaCresha’s Fifth
    Amendment rights because, as we discussed above, such a violation
    requires that (1) officials coerce an involuntary statement from a
    suspect and (2) this statement later be introduced against her at
    trial.37     Therefore, because an officer cannot contemporaneously
    interrogate a suspect unlawfully and violate a suspect’s Fifth
    Amendment rights, we must determine whether clearly established law
    should have alerted a reasonable official that his pre-trial
    conduct, although perhaps a but-for cause of the violation of the
    plaintiff’s trial rights, could proximately cause a violation of
    her Fifth Amendment rights.
         In a perfect world, trial courts protect defendants’ Fifth
    Amendment rights by excluding improperly obtained confessions or
              Hope v. Pelzer, 
    536 U.S. 730
    , 741 (2002).
              See Chavez v. Martinez, 
    538 U.S. 760
    , 770 (2003).
    statements.38     In this real-world case, however, the trial court
    failed to protect LaCresha’s rights.              It is true that the officers
    wrongfully elicited LaCresha’s confession during her interrogation
    and that this confession was later wrongfully admitted at trial and
    used against her, and ultimately resulted in her conviction; yet a
    trial     judge   twice    heard   all      the     evidence   concerning    the
    circumstances surrounding LaCresha’s confession and twice admitted
    it into evidence. The defendants thus insist that, inasmuch as the
    decision whether to admit a criminal defendant’s statement lies
    within the discretion of the presiding judge at trial, that judge’s
    decision    to    admit   LaCresha’s     confession     was    an   independent,
    superseding cause of the violation of her Fifth Amendment rights.39
           See Oregon v. Elstad, 
    470 U.S. 298
    , 307 (1985)(ruling
    that failure to Mirandize a witness before his confession
    automatically results in exclusion of the statement’s use in the
    prosecution’s case in chief); United States v. Blue, 
    384 U.S. 251
    , 255 (1966) (“Even if we assume that the Government did
    acquire incriminating evidence in violation of the Fifth
    Amendment, Blue would at most be entitled to suppress the
    evidence and its fruits if they were sought to be used against
    him at trial”).
           See Crowe v. County of San Diego, 
    303 F. Supp. 2d 1050
    1091-92 (S.D. Cal. 2004). The Crowe court also observed that it
    would be unfair to subject to civil liability under § 1983 only
    those police officers whose improper questioning produced
    statements admitted at trial but exonerate those officers whose
    questioning violated defendants’ civil rights more egregiously,
    resulting in statements excluded by the trial court. 303 F.
    Supp. 2d at 1092. We find this logic unpersuasive, as defendants
    abused by the police during their interrogations may bring suit
    for violation of their Fourteenth Amendment rights. See Chavez,
    538 U.S. at 773-74; Rex v. Teeples, 
    753 F.2d 840
    , 843 (10th Cir.
    1985)(“Extracting an involuntary confession by coercion is a due
    process violation.”)(citing Haynes v. Washington, 
    373 U.S. 503
    513-15) (1963) and Spano v. New York, 
    360 U.S. 315
    , 320-23
    Therefore,     contend    the    defendants,     because    their    improper
    questioning could not have caused the violation of LaCresha’s Fifth
    Amendment    rights,     they   should    not   be   held   liable   for   the
         Section 1983 does require a showing of proximate causation,
    which is evaluated under the common law standard.41            In cases like
    this one, we read § 1983 against the background of tort liability
    that makes a person liable for the natural consequences of his
    actions.42     A corollary of these background tenets of tort law
    (1959)); Duncan v. Nelson, 
    466 F.2d 939
    , 944-45 (7th Cir.), cert.
    409 U.S. 894
           The defendants argue that the presiding judge or
    prosecutor is responsible and therefore liable for the
    constitutional violation; but, of course, judges and prosecutors
    enjoy absolute immunity for their judicial decisions and
    prosecutorial functions, respectively. Stump v. Sparkman, 
    435 U.S. 349
    , 356-57 (1978); Imbler v. Pachtman, 
    424 U.S. 409
    , 420
    (1976). Whether an objectively reasonable officer could be
    aware, as he was improperly obtaining a suspect’s statement, that
    he could be violating that individual’s Fourteenth Amendment
    substantive due process rights is a separate question that we do
    not address, as LaCresha did not allege a violation of her
    Fourteenth Amendment rights. See Chavez, 538 U.S. at 773
    (2003)(“Our views on the proper scope of the Fifth Amendment’s
    Self-Incrimination Clause do not mean that police torture or
    other abuse that results in a confession is constitutionally
    permissible so long as the statements are not used at trial; it
    simply means that the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause,
    rather than the Fifth Amendment’s Self-Incrimination Clause,
    would govern the inquiry in those cases and provide relief in
    appropriate circumstances.”)(emphasis in original).
              Sims v. Adams, 
    537 F.2d 829
    , 831 (5th Cir. 1976).
           Monroe v. Pape, 
    365 U.S. 167
    , 187 (1961), over-ruled on
    other grounds, Monell v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs. of City of New
    436 U.S. 658
     (1978)(holding that plaintiffs may sue
    municipalities for civil rights violations using § 1983).
    relieves tortfeasors from liability if there exists a superseding
    cause, or “an act of a third person or other force which by its
    intervention prevents the actor from being liable for harm to
    another which his antecedent wrongful act was a substantial factor
    in bringing about.”43       Defendants advance that the trial judge’s
    decision to admit LaCresha’s statement into evidence constitutes
    such a superseding cause, and that, absent any allegation or proof
    that they     endeavored    to    mislead   the   judge   into   admitting   an
    involuntary     statement        at   trial,   they   cannot      have   acted
    “unreasonably” according to clearly established law for purposes of
    § 1983 liability.
         Albeit in dicta, the Supreme Court has intimated that this
    argument should not hold sway, at least with respect to false
    arrest claims.     Although the Court in Malley v. Briggs conceded
    that the appellant police officer’s argument that he could not have
    proximately caused a defendant’s unlawful arrest by filing an
    affidavit unsupported by probable cause was not before it on
    appeal, the Court stated that it would not have been receptive to
    this contention.44 Malley states that § 1983 should be read against
    background tort law, which recognizes the liability of individuals
    for the consequences of their acts:
              Petitioner has not pressed the argument that in
         a case like this the officer should not be liable
              Restatement 2d of Torts § 440-41 (1965).
    475 U.S. 335
    , 345 n.7 (1986).
         because the judge’s decision to issue the warrant
         breaks the causal chain between the application for
         the warrant and the improvident arrest. It should be
         clear, however, that the District Court’s “no
         causation” rationale in this case is inconsistent with
         our interpretation of § 1983. As we stated in Monroe
         v. Pape, 
    365 U.S. 167
    , 187 (1961), § 1983 “should be
         read against the background of tort liability that
         makes a man responsible for the natural consequences
         of his actions.45
         One year after Malley, we implicitly endorsed this approach in
    United States v. Burzynski Cancer Research Institute, holding that
    Malley required us to reject a police officer’s “superseding cause”
    arguments    and   examine     only   whether       a    reasonably       well-trained
    officer    would   have   known       that    his       warrant    application     was
    unsupported by probable cause.46             The following year, however, we
    decided Gary v. Hand, a false arrest case in which we held that,
    when a neutral intermediary, such as a justice of the peace,
    reviews the facts and allows a case to go forward, such an act
    “breaks the chain of causation.”47              We qualified our holding by
    stating that “the chain of causation is broken only where all the
    facts are     presented   to    the    grand    jury,      or     other    independent
    intermediary where the malicious motive of the law enforcement
    officials does not lead them to withhold any relevant information
    from the independent intermediary.”48                   This holding in Gary was
              Malley, 475 U.S. at 345 n.7.
    819 F.2d 1301
    , 1309 (5th Cir. 1987).
              Gary v. Hand, 
    838 F.2d 1420
    , 1428 (5th Cir. 1988).
              Id. at 1427-28.
    consistent with other circuit precedent,49 yet we made no mention
    of Burzynski or of the Supreme Court’s “proximate cause” footnote
    in Malley.
           The rule of Gary v. Hand has since prevailed in this circuit
    for   almost   two   decades.50   Even   though   Burzynski   appears   to
    contradict Hand’s holding on the issue of superseding cause, the
    earlier decision did not address the issue in depth, and we are
    unwilling to disregard firmly ensconced circuit precedent in favor
    of such a cursory analysis of Malley’s dicta.         A review of other
    circuits’ case law addressing proximate cause when a plaintiff’s
            See Thomas v. Sams, 
    734 F.2d 185
    , 191 (5th Cir. 1984)
    (holding a mayor who had falsely sworn an arrest warrant, then
    submitted the warrant to himself, as a magistrate, for issuance,
    did not break the chain of causation because he did not submit
    the warrant to a neutral party); Smith v. Gonzales, 
    670 F.2d 522
    526 (5th Cir. 1982) (holding that an officer who acted with
    malice in procuring a warrant or a indictment will not be liable
    if the facts supporting the warrant or indictment are put before
    an impartial intermediary such as a magistrate or a grand jury,
    for that intermediary’s ‘independent’ decision ‘breaks the causal
    chain’ and insulates the initiating party); Rodriguez v. Ritchey,
    556 F.2d 1185
    , 1193 (5th Cir. 1977)(en banc), cert. denied, 
    434 U.S. 1047
           See Shields v. Twiss, 
    389 F.3d 142
    , 150 (5th Cir.
    2004)(“[O]nce facts supporting an arrest are placed before an
    independent intermediary such as a . . . grand jury, the
    intermediary’s decision breaks the chain of causation”. . .unless
    “the deliberations of that intermediary were in some way tainted
    by the actions of the defendants”)(internal citations omitted);
    Gordy v. Burns, 
    294 F.3d 722
    , 728 (5th Cir. 2002)(reaffirming
    Hand); Taylor v. Gregg, 
    36 F.3d 453
    , 456 (5th Cir. 1994)(“It is
    well settled that if facts supporting an arrest are placed before
    an independent intermediary such as a magistrate or grand jury,
    the intermediary’s decision breaks the chain of causation for
    false arrest, insulating the initiating party.”)(citations
    injury results from an independent decision-maker’s ruling also
    reveals a fundamental tension between these primary tenets of tort
    law: (1) An individual is liable for the reasonably foreseeable
    consequences of his actions, and (2) an intervening decision of an
    informed, neutral decision-maker “breaks” the chain of causation.51
            Compare Kerman v. City of New York, 
    374 F.3d 93
    , 126 (2d
    Cir. 2004)(holding that police officer could be held liable for
    plaintiff’s loss of liberty after police officer wrongly sent
    plaintiff to a mental hospital, even though the plaintiff’s
    subsequent detention in the hospital resulted from the
    independent judgment of the physicians. “Tort defendants,
    including those sued under § 1983, are responsible for the
    natural consequences of their actions.”)(citing, inter alia,
    Malley v. Briggs, 
    475 U.S. 335
     (1986)); Herzog v. Village of
    309 F.3d 1041
    , 1044 (7th Cir. 2002)(“[T]he ordinary
    rules of tort causation apply to constitutional tort suits” after
    a suspect was illegally forced to give blood and urinate as a
    result of an illegal arrest)(internal citation omitted); Zahrey
    v. Coffey, 
    221 F.3d 342
    , 352 (2d Cir. 2000)(“[I]t is not readily
    apparent why the chain of causation should be considered broken
    where the initial wrongdoer can reasonably foresee that his
    misconduct will contribute to an ‘independent’ decision that
    results in a deprivation of liberty.”); Warner v. Orange County
    Dep’t of Probation, 
    115 F.3d 1068
    , 1072-73 (2d Cir.
    1996)(concluding that, as a sentencing judge’s adoption of
    probation officers’ recommendation was entirely foreseeable, the
    judge’s decision did not break the chain of causation with
    respect to the probation officers’ liability under § 1983); and
    Buenrostro v. Collazo, 
    973 F.2d 39
    , 45 (1st Cir. 1992)(holding
    that, as “the Supreme Court has made it crystal clear that
    principles of causation borrowed from tort law” apply to
    constitutional torts, a jury “could conceivably find a causal
    nexus between [an] unlawful arrest and [a] consequent
    imprisonment,” even after an independent magistrate determined
    that there was probable cause to detain the plaintiff)(citing
    Malley, 475 U.S. at 345 n.7) with Egervary v. Young, 
    366 F.3d 238
    , 248 (3d Cir. 2004)(“To the extent that the common law
    recognized the causal link between a complaint and the ensuing
    arrest, it was in the situation where “misdirection” by omission
    or commission perpetuated the original wrongful
    behavior.”)(citing Hand, 838 F.2d at 1428); Townes v. City of New
    176 F.3d 138
    , 147 (2d Cir. 1999)(holding chain of causation
    broken between police officers’ illegal search and seizure and
       In this circuit, it was not well-established at the time of
    LaCresha’s interrogation that an official’s pre-trial interrogation
    of a suspect could subsequently expose that official to liability
    for violation of a suspect’s Fifth Amendment rights at trial.              We
    hold    that,   as   in   the   analogous   context   of   Fourth   Amendment
    violations, an official who provides accurate information to a
    neutral intermediary, such as a trial judge, cannot “cause” a
    subsequent Fifth Amendment violation arising out of the neutral
    intermediary’s decision, even if a defendant can later demonstrate
    that his or her statement was made involuntarily while in custody.52
           LaCresha has not identified, and we have not found, any
    evidence in the record to indicate that the state judge who
    plaintiff’s subsequent conviction and imprisonment); Smiddy v.
    665 F.2d 261
    , 266-68 (9th Cir. 1981)(holding police
    officers not liable for damages once prosecutor made independent
    decision to charge plaintiff); Duncan v. Nelson, 
    466 F.2d 939
    943 (7th Cir. 1972)(holding that no § 1983 cause of action exists
    for violation of Fifth Amendment rights resulting from admission
    into evidence of a coerced confession as officers did not
    proximately cause the violation); Crowe v. County of San Diego,
    303 F. Supp. 2d 1050
    , 1092 (S.D. Cal. 2004) (“Given the roles and
    obligations of prosecutors and judges and the independent nature
    of these positions, a police officer could not reasonably know
    that by obtaining a coerced confession he will cause a prosecutor
    and/or a trial judge to violate a defendant’s Fifth Amendment
    privilege against self-incrimination.”). See also Hector v.
    235 F.3d 154
    , 161 (3d Cir. 2000)(declining to reach the
    question of whether proximate cause prevented a § 1983 plaintiff
    from suing police officers for fabricating evidence as “there is
    a great deal of tension in the caselaw about when official
    conduct counts as an intervening cause.”).
           We emphasize again that our analysis does not apply to
    Fourteenth Amendment claims brought by plaintiffs against
    officials that attack the lawfulness of the interrogation itself.
    See Chavez v. Martinez, 
    538 U.S. 760
    , 773-74 (2003).
    presided over her juvenile trial failed to hear (or was prevented
    from        hearing)      all   of   the        relevant   facts       surrounding     her
    interrogation          before    deciding        to    admit     her     confession    into
    evidence.          Armed with all those facts, that judge nevertheless
    concluded that LaCresha was not “in custody” for purposes of
    Miranda or Texas law governing the interrogation of minors, and
    ruled       that    her    statement       to    the    police     was     voluntary   and
    admissible.53 Like the state appellate court, we disagree with the
    trial court’s ruling, yet we are constrained to hold that it
    constituted a superseding cause of LaCresha’s injury, relieving the
    defendants of liability under § 1983.                   This holding pretermits our
    consideration whether she suffered a violation of a constitutional
    right that was clearly established at the time, and whether a
    reasonable official should have known that he was violating that
    right.        Accordingly, we reverse the district court’s denial of
    qualified immunity for the defendants on LaCresha’s Fifth Amendment
    C.     State Law Civil Conspiracy Claim
           LaCresha has also asserted a claim under state law, contending
    that the defendants conspired to deprive her of her Fifth Amendment
    rights.        The elements of a civil conspiracy claim in Texas are:
    “(1) two or more persons; (2) an object to be accomplished; (3) a
    meeting of minds on the object or course of action; (4) one or more
           In re L.M., 
    993 S.W.2d 276
    , (Tex. App.– Austin,
    1999)(pet. denied).
    unlawful, overt acts; and (5) damages as the proximate result.”54
    A plaintiff asserting such a claim must prove that the defendants
    conspired to accomplish an unlawful purpose or used unlawful means
    to accomplish a lawful purpose.55
           The    defendants    counter    that,    under   Texas    law,     they   are
    officially immune from suit for civil conspiracy.56                        In this
    interlocutory appeal, we have jurisdiction to hear the defendants’
    claim of official immunity because Texas law, like the federal
    doctrine, “provides a true immunity from suit and not a simple
    defense      to   liability.”57       As    official    immunity    is    thus    an
    affirmative defense, a state official seeking summary judgment on
    such    grounds     “must   conclusively        prove   each    element    of    the
                Massey v. Armco Steel Co., 
    652 S.W.2d 932
    , 934 (Tex.
                Juhl v. Airington, 
    936 S.W.2d 640
    , 644 (Tex. 1996).
           As the Texas Tort Claims Act does not waive the State’s
    immunity for civil conspiracy suits or other intentional torts
    committed by officials in their official capacity, the district
    court correctly dismissed claims brought against the defendants
    in their official capacities. TRST Corpus, Inc. v. Financial
    Ctr., Inc., 
    9 S.W.3d 316
    , 322 (Tex. App. – Houston [14th Dist.]
    1999, writ denied)(citing Tex. Civ. Prac & Rem. Code § 101.021
    (2004), which enumerates the causes of action for which the state
    has waived immunity, but not including civil conspiracy).
    Accordingly, we address only state conspiracy claims brought
    against the defendants in their individual capacities.
           Roe v. Tex. Dep’t of Protective & Regulatory Servs., 
    299 F.3d 395
    , 413 (5th Cir. 2002).
                Univ. of Houston v. Clark, 
    38 S.W.3d 578
    , 580 (Tex.
          Government officials in Texas are officially immune from
    liability for the performance of their (1) discretionary duties (2)
    in good faith (3) as long as they are acting within the scope of
    their authority.59        A discretionary function —— as distinguished
    from a ministerial duty, which requires rote obedience to orders or
    performance of a function to which the actor has no choice ——
    involves personal deliberation, decision and judgment.60 An officer
    acts in good faith if a reasonably prudent officer, under the same
    circumstances, could have believed that his actions were correct.61
    An   officer     acts    within   the   scope   of   his   authority   when   he
    discharges the duties generally assigned to him.62
          The district court ruled, and LaCresha does not dispute, that
    the remaining defendants were performing discretionary functions
    and acting within the scope of their authority vis-à-vis her
    interrogation. That leaves only the question whether they acted in
    good faith.
          To obtain official immunity on summary judgment, an official
    must prove that a reasonably prudent official might have believed
    that his action was appropriate under the circumstances.63             Even if
               City of Lancaster v. Chambers, 
    883 S.W.2d 650
    , 653 (Tex.
               Id. at 654 (citation omitted).
               Id. at 656.
               Id. at 658.
    an official’s actions were taken negligently, that would not be
    sufficient to defeat a showing of good faith.64             The test for good
    faith is objective and is substantially derived from the test for
    good faith in a qualified immunity claim for federal constitutional
         In light of our holding that the defendants are immune from
    prosecution for LaCresha’s Fifth Amendment constitutional claim
    because    they   did   not     act   unreasonably     according    to   clearly
    established law, we also determine, by conducting the analogous
    state law inquiry under Texas state law,66 that immunity bars
    LaCresha’s civil conspiracy claim.            As we have now determined, for
    purposes of the Fifth Amendment inquiry, that the officers did not
    conceal from      the   Texas    trial   court   any   of   the   circumstances
    surrounding LaCresha’s interrogation and, therefore, that they did
    not cause the violation of her rights, we are constrained to hold
    that they acted “in good faith” for purposes of Texas official
    immunity.     A reasonable officer, under the circumstances, could
    have believed that what he was doing would not violate a suspect’s
    Fifth Amendment rights —— certainly, if none of the officials could
    cause a violation of those rights, none could conspire to cause
    such a violation, particularly in view of our determination that
              Id. at 655.
           Roe v. Tex. Dep’t of Protective & Regulatory Servs., 
    299 F.3d 395
    , 413 (5th Cir. 2002).
              See Chambers, 883 S.W.2d at 656.
    the officials properly presented evidence of their interrogation of
    LaCresha to the Texas trial court.          Therefore, the defendants are
    entitled to immunity from LaCresha’s state law conspiracy claim.
           Further, our determination that the defendants did not commit
    an actionable violation with respect to LaCresha’s Fifth Amendment
    violation bars a claim of civil conspiracy based on that violation,
    as “[g]enerally, if an act by one person cannot give rise to a
    cause of action, then the same act cannot give rise to a cause of
    action if done pursuant to an agreement between several persons.”67
    Although LaCresha did suffer a violation of her constitutional
    rights, our determination that none of the state officials could
    have    proximately    caused   this   violation   means   that   none   have
    committed a tortious act.        As we conclude that LaCresha’s claims
    against these defendants are unavailing, we reverse the district
    court, and remand for entry of summary judgment in favor of the
           The    importance   of   deterring    the   improper   obtaining    of
    confessions, however, cannot be gainsaid. “A deliberate, voluntary
    confession of guilt is among the most effectual proofs in the law,
    and constitutes the strongest evidence against the party making it
    that can be given of the facts stated in such confession.”68
    Justice White called a voluntary confession the most damaging form
           Kelly v. Diocese of Corpus Christi, 
    832 S.W.2d 88
    , 95
    (Tex. App. —— Corpus Christi 1992, writ dism’d w.o.j.).
                Hopt v. Utah, 
    110 U.S. 574
    , 584-85 (1884).
    of evidence and noted that “[e]ven the testimony of an eyewitness
    may   be     less   reliable   than   the   defendant’s    own   confession.”69
    “Confession evidence (regardless of how it was obtained) is so
    biasing that juries will convict on the basis of confession alone,
    even when no significant or credible evidence confirms the disputed
    confession      and   considerable    significant    and   credible   evidence
    disconfirms it.”70
           A voluntary confession merits credence “because it is presumed
    to    flow from the      strongest    sense   of   guilt.”71     In   diametric
    opposition, an involuntary confession constitutes evidence entitled
    to little weight, as it is likely to be unreliable.72
           Bruton v. United States, 
    391 U.S. 123
    , 140 (1968) (White,
    J., dissenting).
           Stephen A. Drizin & Richard A. Leo, The Problem of False
    Confessions in the Post-D.N.A. World, 82 N.C.L. Rev. 891, 923
    (2004). “Regardless of how often police elicit confessions from
    the innocent, the social science literature strongly suggests
    that interrogation-induced false confessions are highly likely to
    lead to the wrongful conviction of the innocent, perhaps more so
    than any other type of erroneous evidence. This is due to the
    strong effect that confession evidence exerts on the perceptions
    and decision-making of criminal justice officials and lay jurors.
    With the exception of being captured during the commission of a
    crime (whether by physical apprehension or electronically on
    videotape), a confession is the most incriminating and persuasive
    evidence of guilt that the State can bring against a defendant.
    It therefore stands to reason that with the exception of being
    falsely captured during the commission of a crime, a false
    confession is the most incriminating and persuasive false
    evidence of guilt that the State can bring against a defendant.”
    Id. at 921.
                Hopt, 110 U.S. at 584.
           Jackson v. Denno, 
    378 U.S. 368
    , 385-86 (1964); In re
    387 U.S. 1
    , 45 (“The principle, then, upon which a
                     The privilege against self-incrimination is,
                of course, related to the question of the
                safeguards necessary to assure that admissions or
                confessions are reasonably trustworthy, that they
                are not the mere fruits of fear or coercion, but
                are reliable expressions of the truth. . .coercion
                is thought to carry with it the danger of
    Involuntary confessions also affront society’s “deep-rooted feeling
    that    . . in the end, life and liberty can be as much endangered
    from illegal methods used to convict those thought to be criminals
    as from the actual criminals themselves.”74             These principles are
    doubly true in cases such as this one, in which the suspect is a
    young child whose statements are more likely to be the product of
    “fear, ignorance, fantasy, or despair.”75
           Nonetheless,     the   independent    roles      of   police    officers,
    prosecutors,      and   judges   operate    in   this    context      to   prevent
    individuals who have suffered violations of their Fifth Amendment
    rights from recovering for their damages, absent a showing that a
    neutral intermediary, such as a judge, did not have all pertinent
    information surrounding an interrogation before him when deciding
    a confession’s admissibility.       Therefore summary judgment in favor
    of the defendants is appropriate.
    confession may be excluded is that it is, under certain
    conditions, testimonially untrustworthy. . .”)(emphasis in
    original)(quoting 3 Wigmore, Evidence § 822 (3d ed. 1940)).
                In re Gault, 387 U.S. at 47.
                Spano v. New York, 
    360 U.S. 315
    , 320-21 (1959).
                In re Gault, 387 U.S. at 55.
                             III.   CONCLUSION
         As LaCresha cannot demonstrate that the acts of the defendants
    in obtaining her confession proximately caused the violation of her
    Fifth Amendment rights, we hold that she may not maintain against
    the defendants either a claim under § 1983 for a constitutional
    violation or civil conspiracy claim under Texas law.