Due process

Bipolar woman jailed after fleeing courtroom while testifying against her alleged rapist

Harris County DA Devon Anderson (YouTube)

A 25-year-old bipolar woman — known only as Jane Doe — was jailed by prosecutors after she had a mental breakdown in court while testifying against the man who allegedly raped her. According to court documents, the victim became disoriented and began to cry and babble incoherently while testifying against Keith Hendricks, who would later be sentenced to two life sentences on charges of serial rape. The victim reportedly broke down before fleeing the courtroom, screaming behind her that she would never come back. The woman was involuntarily committed to the psychiatric ward of St. Joseph’s Hospital to stabilize, and then moved by prosecutors to the Harris County jail in Texas for 28 days to ensure that she would testify.

The state had issued a writ of attachment, a court order that allows police to hold witnesses in custody. Normally such writs are issued in Texas for witnesses with criminal backgrounds who are considered to be highly likely to flee rather than testify, according to former prosecutor Kim Ogg, a candidate for Harris County District Attorney. The victim’s lawyer, Sean Buckley, said that a series of miscues committed by the jail staff ensued. His client was put “into the general population of the jail, even though the jail has a mental health unit,” and that during her time in jail the victim was attacked by another inmate who “repeatedly slammed her head into the concrete floor.”

The woman was also allegedly “forced to drink from a spigot attached to a dirty metal toilet,” and mistakenly booked by police as the defendant, not a witness, in the sexual assault case. While having a mental health episode in the prison, the victim is also alleged to have hit a guard who responded by punching her in the face.

Current Harris County district attorney Devon Anderson has said that since the victim was homeless, there was nowhere but jail for prosecutors to hold her. “There were no apparent alternatives that would ensure the victim’s safety and her appearance at trial,” she claimed. According to legal analyst Brian Wice, however, the victim’s homelessness does not justify her treatment. “At the end of the day,” said legal Brian Wice, “[the victim] received less due process, less protection, than the rapist did.” The victim is currently suing Harris County and the county’s law enforcement agencies, alleging unfair treatment. Watch Anderson’s statement below.

Read the full story at The Washington Post.

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