Texas Stamp

Ochoa, Emanuel

PD-0745-23 & PD-0746-23 & PD-0747-23 02/07/2024


1. “Whether the Ranger made a positive promise to Appellant under Garcia v. State, 919 S.W.2d 370 (Tex. Crim. App. 1994), when he said that ‘there’s no reason on this deal why you shouldn’t be adjudicated as a juvenile. And what that means is they’re going to get you help. You’re not going off to prison or anything horrible like that.’”

2. “Whether the ‘positive promise’ standard of Garcia applies to juveniles?”

3. “Whether the totality of the circumstances in this case rendered Appellant’s statement involuntary?”

Police drove 14-year-old Ochoa and his mother to the police station for an interview with a Texas Ranger after Ochoa and a man discovered a missing five-year-old who had been physically and sexually assaulted. Ochoa was not handcuffed. The Ranger told Ochoa that he could leave whenever he wanted to. The room was small, and Ochoa was positioned so that he would have to move a table or ask the Ranger to move to get out of the room. The Ranger told Ochoa he did not put 14-year-olds in jail. He suggested that the whole thing had been a mistake and had gotten out of control. He put his hands on Ochoa’s knees and told him he could smell the cleaning supplies on Ochoa’s pants and that he knew Ochoa had made a Freudian slip indicating his guilt but that he could help if Ochoa were to make amends. At that point, the interview was stopped, and a magistrate advised Ochoa of his rights in his mother’s presence, explaining that Ochoa was only there as a witness and that the right to an attorney “really [came] in” if Ochoa were to be charged with a crime. When the interview continued, the Ranger told Ochoa that he would likely be adjudicated as a juvenile and would not be sent to prison. He explained that the DA’s Office would ultimately decide what to do and that, if he wasn’t sorry, they would not look at him like a 14-year-old. He added that things could go badly but did not have to. By the end of the three-hour interview, Ochoa had admitted taking the victim from her bedroom, raping her, hitting her on the head, and leaving her under a mobile home.

The juvenile court waived its jurisdiction and transferred Ochoa’s case to adult court where he was charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child, injury to a child, and aggravated kidnapping. Ochoa moved to suppress his pre- and post-warning statements on multiple grounds, including that they were involuntary. After a hearing, the trial court denied the suppression motion. Ochoa was ultimately convicted of all three offenses.

On appeal, the court of appeals affirmed. It rejected Ochoa’s challenges to the suppression ruling, holding that Ochoa’s confession was voluntarily made despite the magistrate’s extra-statutory explanations and the Ranger’s promises of help. It held the Ranger’s promises were never unequivocal or unqualified and thus failed to satisfy the requirement of a “positive” promise set out in Garcia for when a promise can render a confession involuntary.  919 S.W.2d at 388 (“A promise made by a law enforcement officer may render a confession involuntary if it was positive, made or sanctioned by someone with apparent authority, was of some benefit to the defendant and was of such a character as would likely cause a person to speak untruthfully.”

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