The tactics of prosecutors in Texas often make headlines for the wrong kinds of reasons but an incident in which a rape victim was jailed in Houston is shocking even by the standards of the Lone Star State.
In Harris County, a prosecutor jailed a rape victim because he feared she would not show up to testify against her attacker.
The woman was jailed after the prosecutor used a little-known legal instrument called an “attachment order.”
The case has provoked a media firestorm and a lawsuit from the victim. The Houston Chronicle reported that a national mental health advocacy group is demanding an independent investigation into the treatment of the woman who was incarcerated after having a breakdown in court.
The report in The Chronicle stated the woman had agreed to testify in the trial against serial rapist Keith Edward Hendricks.
The 25-year-old was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, according to reports. She broke down on the witness stand as she tried to recount the attack in 2013. Harris County prosecutors feared she would not give her evidence, according to reports. She was jailed.
The lawsuit said the rape victim faced further deprivations in jail where it claims she was beaten up by a fellow inmate, denied medication, punched in the face by a guard and treated like a sex offender by members of the medical staff.
The woman remained in Harris County Jail for 28 days. Eventually, she was able to finish testifying against Hendricks who was sentenced to two life sentences on Jan. 15 and is appealing his conviction.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness was critical of the jailing of a rape victim with a mental disorder, branding it as “inexcusable.”
The federal lawsuit accuses the DA’s office, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, jailers and prosecutors of violating the woman’s constitutional rights. Attorneys acting for the rape victim said it could end up costing Harris County millions of dollars.
Harris County Jail is the largest in Texas and it’s often the subject of complaints. Concerns inmates remain locked up at the jail after committing minor offenses because they were too poor to make bail were highlighted in a Courthouse News story.
If you have been treated unfairly by a prosecutor it’s important to make sure an experienced criminal defense attorney is on hand to challenge the injustice.