When a Houston rape victim broke down on the witness stand and couldn’t continue with her testimony, the prosecutor had her thrown in jail, KPRC (Houston) is reporting. Now the victim, identified only as “Jenny,” is suing the Harris County prosecutor and the Harris County sheriff, among other defendants.
Back in December 2015, “Jenny” was testifying against her assailant, Keith Hendricks, a man who would later be found guilty of multiple rapes and sentenced to two life sentences.
During her testimony, Jenny, who suffers from bipolar disorder, broke down and became incoherent. She then ran from the court room and vowed never to return.
Prosecutor Nicholas Socias was having none of that.
Jenny went to a hospital to be treated for her mental breakdown, but after her treatment, she found herself handcuffed and tossed into the back of a patrol car, according to her attorney, Sean Buckley. Jenny’s mother said she got a phone call from her daughter in jail.
“Jenny called me and said, ‘Mom, I’m in the Harris County Jail.'”
Jenny would later go on to spend a month in jail, including being kept there over Christmas. She was finally released on January 14, 2016, after completing her testimony against the rapist.
During the month she spent in jail, Jenny’s plight worsened. She was thrown into general population, which meant she was kept with other inmates who were suspected of crimes. Jailers mistakenly believed she was a suspect in a sexual assault case, rather than a victim.
Jail records from a psychiatric assessment reveal the confusion at the Harris County Jail.
“…Female arrested for aggravated sexual assault. She says she is going to trial to put someone away for sexually raping her.”
— News Now Atlanta (@NewsNow_Atlanta) June 27, 2016
Jail spokesman Ryan Sullivan said that the jail has procedures for separating inmates who may be at risk, but at the time of Jenny’s incarceration, there was no room for her to have a private cell.
On January 8, 2016, Jenny had another breakdown, and emerged from her cell swinging her fists. In her fury, she wound up hitting a guard, who in turn hit her back. She was charged with assault, but prosecutors later dropped that charge.
Also during her incarceration, Jenny was assaulted by another inmate, and suffered a black eye.
Buckley said the rape victim should have never been put in jail in the first place.
“This young lady should never have been put in the Harris County jail. That is not an environment for a rape victim.”
As it turns out, jailing an uncooperative witness — even if she is the victim of a crime — is perfectly legal in Texas. Using what’s called a “witness bond,” a material witness can be jailed and held with or without bail.
Legal analyst Brian Wice said he had never heard of witness bond being used against a rape victim.
“It’s astounding to me that could have happened. At the end of the day she received less due process, less protection than the rapist did.”
District Attorney Devon Anderson, under whose office prosecutor Nicholas Socias works, declined to comment on pending litigation. However, the D.A.’s office, in a statement, said that there’s nothing untoward about jailing an uncooperative witness on a witness bond, even if she is a rape victim.
“Witness bonds are a common tool used by prosecutors and defense attorneys when the lawyer has reason to believe that the witness will be unavailable or make him or herself unavailable for trial.”
Do you believe a rape victim should be thrown in jail if she is unable to testify? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
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