Prosecutors have filed a motion to give the parents of a man facing murder charges a chance to explain to the judge why they refused to answer questions.
The couple was subpoenaed by prosecutors to provide more details about their son, Howell Donaldson III, including answering questions about his mental health, WFLA News Channel 8 reported.
An attorney for the parents of Donaldson, who is facing four counts of murder in connection with four killings since Oct. 9 in Seminole Heights, previously told several news outlets that Donaldson’s parents are refusing to testify against their son even if it means going to jail.
In a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren said he has an obligation to investigate every avenue and build a strong case.
Warren said he recognizes and sympathizes with Donaldson’s parents and the situation they’re in, but would not speculate as to why they declined to answer questions.
However, he pointed out, there is no privilege between parents and children in Florida courts like there are between spouses. But they would have immunity.
“The parents do have immunity just like anyone would who has been given an investigative subpoena, so anything they say can't be used against them, which means that a judge will likely to compel them to answer questions that are relevant to the investigation,” Warren said.
Ralph Fernandez, who represents Donaldson’s parents Rosita and Howell Donaldson Jr., said his clients refuse to testify against their son, according to Fox 13.
“They are willing to go to jail not to testify against their son,” he told FOX 13. “They believe in America. That is a core value of the religious, principled, patriotic segment of the population. We will not testify against their son. This goes back to the early days of the Bible.”
However, Warren explained that they are not being called to testify, just to answer questions in a private setting.
Rosita and Howell Donaldson Jr. were questioned separately and in different rooms Tuesday but both refused to provide any information, according to WFLA. Fernandez said it was a polite conversation.
“Each time the response that was elicited was, ‘I’m not going to answer that question,’” Fernandez told WFLA.
The parents are expected to face a judge Thursday to explain why they refused to comply with the subpoena, according to WFLA.
At that point, a judge will decide if Donaldson Jr. should be held in contempt of court, according to WTSP.
“They face confinement, jail. I think tomorrow will be a critical day I think as a matter fact we will have family values on trial tomorrow,” Fernandez told ABC Action News Tuesday.
The last time the couple spoke to their son was during an emotional two minute video conference Friday, ABC Action News reported.