Poor, Poor Jenny; What To Do, What To Do?
July 25, 2016 (Fault Lines) — The confinement of rape victim “Jenny” after her breakdown on the stand was the subject of a post here and one by Admiral Greenfield at Simple Justice. The Harris County District Attorney, Devon Anderson, likewise took to YouTube to defend her assistant’s actions. The upshot of the video is that the prosecutor had no choice…if Jenny had not shown up for the continuation of the trial, the rapist would have walked. And in this case, Anderson forcefully asserts, the District’s Attorney’s office couldn’t make their conviction omelet without breaking some eggs…and if the broken egg had already been raped, tough luck.
Scott helpfully presented some alternatives to Harris County’s course of action, some of which were tongue in cheek. The more practical ones included:
- Putting Jenny up in a motel;
- Contacting the mental hospital she was housed at to extend her stay till the trial;
- Finding another mental health facility to put her up till the trial;
- If there really was no alternative to jail, making sure the jailors knew she was a special case (both by virtue of her status and her mental state) and not to be treated like the usual inmate.
To this, I would add:
- A GPS tether: basically an ankle bracelet that would keep the county informed of Jenny’s whereabouts 24 hours a day. So, when trial rolled around and she was nowhere to be found, the police could locate her almost immediately and bring her to court, willingly or not.
You might be saying to yourself, “Self, this Noel and Scott are just Monday morning quarterbacking. The prosecutor had to make a split-second decision when faced with the potential implosion of his case.” If so, you’ve been watching too many statements from police union officials. There was nothing split-second about it. Jenny was in the hospital for 10 days before she went to jail, and soon as she was to be released, the D.A. was kind enough to provide transportation from the hospital check out to the jail sally port. There was plenty of time to figure a less oppressive alternative.
That said, the horror of the details of what happened to Jenny are past, subject only to the lawsuit currently filed on her behalf. At any rate, this is (thankfully) a rare situation, though one wonders where the internet outrage outcry is.
You think the short sentence of Brock Turner is going to have a “chilling effect” on the reporting of rapes to the police? In Houston, hard as it to believe, when deciding whether or not to report a rape, a victim has to weigh the possibility of being locked up herself. Sure enough, Anderson or her apologists might object, Jenny got locked up for different reasons than the rapist. But the reason doesn’t make any difference to the poor schlub who’s locked in a cage and trying not to drop the soap.
In addition to the offense against basic human decency, there’s the practical aspect of it. If the defense attorney had two brain cells to rub together, her cross exam would have opened like this:
- Jenny, why are you in orange?
- How long have you been locked up?
- Where were you before you were in jail?
- Who put you there?
- When do you get out?
- Wait, you don’t get out until you testify?
- Did you discuss your testimony with anyone from the DA’s office today?
It didn’t matter in the end, as her rapist was convicted, but you can bet there’s an appellate attorney somewhere in Texas researching this very issue as we speak.
Finally, there’s the class angle. Jenny was mentally ill and homeless, and it appears that her family did not have a great deal in terms of financial resources (Jenny was being held on a $10,000 bond, which means she would have had to pay $1000 dollars to a bondsman to get out of jail, which her mother was unwilling or unable to pay.) Funny, isn’t it, how the terrible tragedies that befall victims of law enforcement happen to poor people?
The shooting of Akai Gurley happened at a public housing project in Brooklyn, not in Scarsdale. The shooting of Michael Brown happened in Ferguson, not Chesterfield. Same goes for Tamir Rice and Eric Garner. Does anyone really think that Jenny would have been treated this way, regardless of what she said after her breakdown, if she had been an upper-middle class woman whose family had the money and social capital to look out for her?
The worst part of this is that Devon Anderson, like her assistant, is still incapable of seeing Jenny as a human being. She’s just another piece of the puzzle, unworthy of the most basic efforts to protect her sanity and dignity, in the quest for a conviction.
 That probably would have drawn an objection, but if the judge shut down the line of questioning it would present an excellent issue for appeal.
 Jenny’s lawsuit claims that her mother was discouraged from doing so by Assistant District Attorney in charge of the case.