Prosecutor Plays Pokemon Go With Rape Victim “Jenny”
July 21, 2016 (Fault Lines) — Subpoenas are wonderful things. “The law is entitled to every man’s evidence,” the saying goes, and the way to enforce that entitlement is through the subpoena power. From the Latin phrase, “sub poena,” or “under penalty,” it’s the penalty part of it that gives the subpoena its teeth. Basically, if you get a subpoena and don’t show up for court when you’re supposed to, the judge can issue an order called “writ of body attachment,” which basically allows the police to arrest you until the court is done with you. That’s the theory, anyways.
In practice, requesting a body attachment when a witness doesn’t appear is a pretty big gun to pull out, for a couple of different reasons. First, obviously, it slows things down, as typically the police have to locate the witness, arrest them, and bring them to court to testify. Second of all, witnesses who get arrested are typically not well disposed to give helpful testimony to the lawyer who asked for his arrest.
So, in low level cases (like misdemeanor domestic violence cases where the parties have reconciled), the case simply proceeds without the missing witness (if that’s possible) or the case is dismissed (if it isn’t). It’s a judgment call for the lawyer involved on the best way to play it. Even so, there is no anticipatory writ of body attachment: a lawyer can’t order your arrest because he thinks you might not show up.
Except, apparently, in Texas. In Houston, Keith Hendricks was on trial for the rape of “Jenny.”
Jenny, who suffers from bipolar disorder, couldn’t continue her testimony on Dec. 8, 2015.
Court transcripts show she was incoherent, broke down and ran from court saying she’d never return.
Which is understandable. Having to relive that experience would be tough on anyone, let alone someone already suffering from mental health issues. The trial was adjourned until January, but the prosecutor, Nicholas Socias, wanted to make sure that Jenny would be available to testify. He asked for a body attachment, which the judge granted. Initially, she went to the local mental hospital, where eventually her condition improved. As soon as her mental health stabilized, she went home to her family for the holidays she was locked up in the Harris County Jail, where she remained until January 14, when the trial was over.
In case your faith in humanity hasn’t been destroyed already, here’s what Jenny, the rape victim, went through:
Dec. 8: Breaks down on stand, committed to mental hospital. To be fair, it appears that this was with her family’s consent, as they were concerned for her health or safety.
Dec. 18: Released from the mental hospital, when Harris County D.A. personnel take her directly to jail without passing go or collecting $200. The jail makes a mistake on her booking paperwork, putting her down as a perpetrator of Aggravated Sexual Assault, not as a witness. Whoops!
Dec. 23: Jenny visits the prison doctor because of a fight with another inmate, which left a “nickel sized hematoma” on her forehead. What are the odds that bipolar rape victim, mistaken for a rapist, is going to have difficulties in jail?
(While all this is going on, Jenny alleges that the psych staff at the jail found her to “disoriented” with respect to reality, because of her belief that she was the victim and not the perpetrator. Paging Kamilah Brock.)
Jan. 8: Jenny has a breakdown and supposedly hits a guard, who hits her back. Jenny is charged with assault, which is later dismissed. What a deal!
Jan. 11: Jenny testifies when the trial continues.
Jan. 14: Jenny is released when the trial ends.
Compared to Harris County, Kafka was a fucking amateur.
The sick thing about this is that it was so unnecessary. When in the middle of a stress-induced breakdown, often people will say things they don’t mean, or will change their about after they calm down. This goes double for mental health patients. If she yelled in the middle of trial, “I’m never coming back here, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER!” the thing to do is to let her come to her senses and talk to her about the importance of testifying. And if she really didn’t show up, then, and only then, ask for a body attachment.
Instead, fearing that it would blow the case, the prosecutor decided to “help” her get treatment in the mental hospital, and when that was done, have her incarcerated. After all, there was Christmas and the New Year to think about, and it would be reeeeealllly inconvenient to have to spend time and resources making sure that Jenny actually had the support and understanding of what the Harris County District Attorney’s Office laughably calls their Victim/Witness division. The DA basically treated Jenny not like the victim of a horrific crime, or even with the common decency due any human being. Rather Jenny was treated like a Pokemon Go gamepiece: to be locked in a cage until needed. The only thing more disgraceful in this episode than the prosecutor’s behavior is that the judge signed off on it.
Basically, Jenny spent a month in the same jail as her rapist because it was more convenient for the prosecutor to stash her there over the holidays. Say what you will about Judge Aaron Persky, but at least he threw the rapist, not the rape victim, in jail.