FRISCO -- Legal experts are questioning the decision by Frisco police to arrest Pallavi Dhawan on a murder charge without first obtaining an arrest warrant –- a standard police practice.
“It’s highly unusual,” said Bill Wirskye, a former high-ranking Dallas County prosecutor who has once served as a liaison to the Dallas Police Department’s homicide unit. “Murder cases typically involve a lot of investigation and it all has to be documented and there’s a paper trail from the moment the police get called out on a scene.”
Dhawan was arrested last week after her son was found in a bathtub at the family’s Frisco home. Her husband has declared her innocence and said the former NASA computer programmer put their son, Arnav, on ice to await his return from an out-of-town business trip so that he could deliver last rites. Dhawan posted $50,000 bond and was released.
Police have said that Dhawan nodded "yes" when asked if she killed her son.
Sgt. Brad Merritt, a Frisco police spokesman, said police did not need to get an arrest warrant.
“It was an on-view arrest because they were at the house when they discovered the evidence,” Merritt said. “In other words, they didn’t have to go get an arrest warrant.”
But experts say it doesn’t meet the definition of an on-view arrest because that means that the offense – in this cases the alleged killing of a child – occurred in the presence of police.
David Finn, Dhawan’s attorney, said he plans to file a motion on Friday demanding that police release any documents outlining the reasons for her arrest. Finn, a Dallas-based attorney, also has said he has been told by the medical examiner that Arnav did not drown, nor did he have any visible injuries.
The family has said the boy suffered from a rare neurological problem that caused seizures. Further medical testing is being conducted in hopes of determining the cause of the boy’s death.
Wirskye, who has prosecuted many murder cases, said police should have waited until they had finding from the medical examiner.
“Obviously, before you arrest someone for murder, you need to be able to determine whether a murder in fact happened,” Wirskye said. “In this case, I don’t see why there was a rush and why they jumped the gun and arrested the mother, unless they had some other compelling evidence. And if the mother did have the evidence, that should be documented and we should know about it by now.”