In Texas, justice is retributive. A lot of it is that Biblical shit that has no place in modern society. Because of the dependence on retributive justice, it isn’t uncommon to hear about police and attorneys skirting the line between what is acceptable and what isn’t. When it comes to Jenny, a rape victim who had a breakdown during her testimony, those who compose law and order in Harris County tromped on the “isn’t” side of acceptability.
On top of being a victim of sexual assault, Jenny also suffers from bipolar disorder, which causes radical shifts in mood and can affect someone’s ability to hold it together in times of high physical, mental, and emotional stress. Testifying in court about your rape is a high-stress moment, so it isn’t surprising that Jenny, in having to relive what happened to her and speak of her vulnerability to a room largely composed of strangers (not to mention a team of people trying to discredit her), would have a breakdown on the stand.
A compassionate prosecutor would take her down and try to ensure she is fine before trying to get her to go back on the stand. Instead, Harris County prosecutors decided to do the opposite of that, jailing Jenny on a material witness bond.
Former prosecutor Kim Ogg is pushing for Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson to investigate the matter. Ogg believes there was another way, a less horrific way, to ensure Jenny returned to complete her testimony.
“Putting a witness in jail on a material witness bond is highly irregular and reserved for the worst of the worst witnesses, maybe gang cases. They can be protected by placing them in a hotel, you can place them with family, you can keep in contact.”
Jenny was in jail for nearly a month while she completed her testimony, which ultimately contributed to her attacker, Keith Hendricks, receiving two life sentences for multiple rapes.
Even though her testimony led to her attacker being imprisoned, jailing a victim because they had a breakdown on the stand is inexcusable, even if there is concern she may quit testifying. It’s an injustice. Jenny’s right to not be falsely imprisoned was violated by Harris County prosecutors. She was denied justice by the people who sought it on her behalf.
It’s twisted, and it’s wrong. Retributive justice often is.