As Austin criminal defense attorneys, there are few things that surprise us anymore about prosecutors in the state. However, the actions of one prosecutor who jailed a Texas rape victim for fear she would not testify, have caused widespread shock.
The New York Times reported that the Harris District Attorney’s office jailed a woman they feared would not take the stand after suffering a mental breakdown.
Prosecutors jailed the Texas rape victim in the same jail as her attacker, Keith Hendricks. A lawsuit was brought against the district attorney’s office and county and jail officials. It alleges she was misclassified as a perpetrator of the attack, denied medication in jail, attacked by another inmate and punched by a guard.
It’s a case that raises alarming questions about the treatment of people with mental health issues in the Texas justice system. As well as the legal aspects, it raises serious concerns about such treatment of someone who has already been victimized.
The Texas rape victim was locked in the Harris County jail for 27 days. According to reports, the women, who is schizophrenic and bipolar, told prosecutors she planned to run away. She did not want to complete her testimony against Hendricks. She spent 10 days in the hospital recovering. The District Attorney’s Office claimed the woman had no place to go after being discharged. Prosecutors obtained a witness attachment and took her to jail.
The Lawsuit Brought Against Harris County by the Texas Rape Victim
The lawsuit makes some serious claims against the authorities in Harris County.
It notes that attachment orders, or “witness bonds” are occasionally used for legitimate purposes. However, they are typically invoked when a witness who is under subpoena is considered a flight risk.
Lawyers representing the woman said their proper use is in cases that involve illegal immigrants who might be scared to testify because of gang reprisal or the fear of deportation.
Although the woman was a rape victim with a mental illness, the lawsuit claims the jail staff classified her as a defendant in a sexual assault case in their system. The oversight meant she was treated like a perpetrator rather than a victim. She was placed with the general jail population rather than in a mental health ward. Here, she faced further attacks and hostility.
As criminal defense attorneys, we know many of the tricks that prosecutors use. This case highlights how glitches in the criminal justice system can and do occur, often with serious consequences.
Our attorneys have years of experience of fighting for jail release in Texas. Please contact us to get out of jail, or to find out more about the wide range of legal services that we can provide. We will be more than happy to discuss your jail release options, or to answer any questions and concerns that you may have.