Some prosecutors will do anything to make their case, and the Harris County District Attorney’s Office has proven they will go as far as to allegedly obtain an unauthorized court order and imprison a rape victim to win a conviction.
The victim is being referred to as “Jenny” and her traumatic ordeal began at the hands of a serial rapist. However, her nightmare was made worse by the Harris County justice system when she took the stand in open court to testify against the man who choked, beat, and raped her two years prior. During the trial Jenny, whose emotionally strenuous experience was worsened by her bipolar disorder and symptoms of schizophrenia, broke down on the stand and fled the courtroom.
Following this, the DA’s office involuntarily committed her to Houston’s St. Joseph Medical Center for 10 days. Even though she was not charged or accused of a crime, she was then arrested and held in the Harris County Jail – the same jail her rapist was housed in – for 28 days, out of fear she would not return to testify when the trial resumed.
Furthering the injustice, Jenny was misclassified as a sexual offender rather than a victim and housed in general population. While unjustly incarcerated she was assaulted by a fellow inmate, denied medication for her bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, and punched in the face by a corrections officer. Again, all because she was unable to keep her composure while testifying in the face of the man who assaulted her.
Criminals are treated better than Jenny was. County officials had numerous options instead of jailing her: they could have released her to a family member, sent her home and required constant communication with the DA’s office, or provided accommodations with a sheriff’s deputy as a chaperone – but they chose to incarcerate her.
The DA’s “Victim-Witness Division” provides services for rape victims testifying against their attackers, but the lawsuit alleges that because the employees of that unit were scheduled to be on Christmas vacation during that time, no one wanted the responsibility of monitoring her. So the office opted for jail.
Jenny is now suing Nicholas Socias, Assistant District Attorney; Ron Hickman, Harris County Sherriff; Taylor Adams, a prison guard; and additional employees of the Harris County Jail and district attorney’s office. Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson provided a video testimony supporting Socias and his actions saying, “There were no apparent alternatives.”
Of the ordeal, Jenny’s lawyer said:
“To shirk this fundamental responsibility and put if off on someone else, and control and dominate Jane Doe over the holiday recess, Assistant District Attorney Nicholas Socias and others in the Harris County District Attorney’s Office conspired to obtain an unauthorized court order to imprison Jane Doe in the Harris County Jail upon her discharge from the St. Joseph Medical Center.”
The story encompasses a number of appalling issues with the justice system. The lack of accountability by prosecutors serving the district attorney’s office, the justice system’s mistreatment of those dealing with mental health problems, and the reality of re-victimizing a victim to ensure that a case is won.
Consider the message that this sends to future rape victims. Seeing what happened to Doe could discourage other victims from speaking up in fear of being treated as a criminal by the system that is supposed to protect them.
While the DA has supported the actions, calls for an independent investigation continue to grow.