Court Cases By Texas

Court Cases by Texas

In the Interest of B.B. and P.B.
971 S.W. 2d 160 (Texas Ct. App. 1998)

In approving the termination of parental rights, the court noted that on factor which led it to do so was that "B.B.'s needs, now and in the future, require special care due to fetal alcohol syndrome." 971 S.W. 2d at 170. His mother still had a drinking problem.

In the Matter of C.C.
1997 WL 360676 (Tex. Ct. App.)

The appellate court approves the termination of the father's parental rights with regard to three children, all of whom had FAS. (*4).

The court concluded that one factor militating in favor of termination of parental rights was that the children had "tremendous needs."

A pediatrician who specialized in birth defects

"diagnosed the children with triple hit suite syndrome, a syndrome associated with prenatal exposure to drugs/alcohol. The children have the physical features of Down's Syndrome, physical growth problems, and learning disorders. All three children suffer from growth impairment which indicates their cases are severe."

(*4). The mother at various times had used marijuana, cocaine, and methamphetamine. One child had tested positive for drugs (unspecified) at birth.

Hall v. Texas
160 S.W.3d 24 (Tex. Crim. App. 2004)

In this case, defendant was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death. On direct appeal, the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed. The defendant petitioned the United States Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari, pursuing a claim of mental retardation. The Supreme Court vacated decision of Court of Criminal Appeals and remanded for reconsideration.

During the initial punishment phase, some evidence of mental retardation was introduced, including that defendant had always been slower than other children, he could not stack blocks at the age of 5, he was in special education classes through the eighth grade, he could not handle regular classes in ninth grade, and did not advance beyond tenth grade. Testimony was introduced that the defendant plays like an eight-year-old boy and associates with young children, that he can not count change, tell time from a traditional clock, read a menu, use public transportation or engage in various other daily activities, nor could he follow multi-step instructions. It was testified that the defendant did know how to use a phone, operate a microwave, load and unload a dishwasher, brush his teeth, use a pencil, read, and that he did pass the written driver's license test. It was noted by one witness that mathematics were largely beyond his ability but that he did have expressive verbal skills. A number of psychologists testified for the defendant, indicating IQ scores which varied from 51 to 84, depending on the test administered. One doctor concluded that defendant possessed adaptive behavior deficits in seven different areas: (1) independent functioning (eating, dressing, and transportation), (2) economic activity (handling money), (3) language development, (4) self-direction (excessive passivity), (5) socialization (ability to interact with others), (6) social engagement, and (7) functional academics. Another psychologist stated that appellant's physical appearance was typical of FAS or FAE. (She also stated that defendant exhibited characteristics that resembled other genetic disorders such as XXY, Kleinfelter Syndrome, YYX, Extra Y Chromosome, or Fragile X Syndrome.)

Rebuttal testimony was offered by the state to the effect that the defendant had "pretty average" adaptive skills and acted "pretty normally," and that his IQ was right around 70. The state's witnesses on the issue of Hall's mental retardation included many lay witnesses, including teachers, co-workers and corrections officers.

The appellate court concluded that the lower courts conclusion that Hall was not mentally retarded was supported by the record and therefore affirmed.

A dissenting opinion criticizes the lower court's reliance on lay testimony in determining whether Hall was mentally retarded. The dissent notes, "Lay persons often have unrealistic ideas about what mentally retarded persons look like and how they act. There is a wide range of abilities encompassed by the term 'mentally retarded'..." The dissent also observes: "Persons with limited mental ability often do extremely well in structured environments, and I cannot think of a more structured environment than death row." (These comments by the dissent are particularly apropos in the case of many persons with FAS).

In the Interest of M.A.C.
49 S.W. 3d 923 (Tex. App. 2001)

The Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services sued to terminate the parental rights of the mother of M.A.C.. This action was brought while M.A.C. was a newborn, and was initially based on the fact that M.A.C. tested positive for cocaine at birth.

At trial the Department apparently contended that M.A.C. suffered from both FAS and "fetal cocaine syndrome" The mother requested that the court appoint an expert witness to determine the severity of these two syndromes. The court denied the request, and terminated the mother's parental rights on the ground that she "could not meet M.A.C.'s special needs." 49 S.W. 3d at 924.

The court of appeals reversed, holding that the mother was entitled to her own expert to evaluate the medical evidence.

"[T]he Department offered M.A.C.'s voluminous medical records, which [the mother's] counsel had admitted she could not adequately understand without expert assistance. The Department presented expert testimony . . . . The pediatrician, Dr. Richard Calvin, diagnosed M.A.C.'s syndromes by patient history . . . . According to Dr. Calvin, M.A.C.'s special needs require a custodian who understands his diagnosis and treatment. . . . The trial court abused its discretion by denying [the mother's] motion to permit her own expert to examine M.A.C."

49 S.W. 3d at 924.

Because there are a substantial number of cases in which termination of parental rights is based on the special needs of a child with FAS, the possibility that the parents in such a case would be entitled to their own medical experts has far reaching implications.

McGuire v. Joseph E. Seagram & Sons, Inc.
790 S.W. 2d 842 (Tex. App. 1990)

A consumer brought this action against a whiskey manufacturer, alleging that alcohol use causes some 32 physical harms, one of which was FAS. 790 S.W. 2d at 849. The appellate court held that the plaintiff could bring such a lawsuit under Texas law. It is unclear whether this particular plaintiff had been injured by FAS; his specific claim was that in the absence of warnings he had become addicted to alcohol. 790 S.W. 2d at 848.