The case of a rape victim who was jailed in Houston to make sure she testified has sparked new legislation in Texas dubbed “Jenny’s Law.”
The Texas House of Representatives recently passed a bill giving victims of crimes jailed for their testimony extra protection and legal representation in light of the case.
It was named in honor of a rape victim from Harris County who was jailed for a month. Jenny, the rape victim, suffered from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. She threatened not to take the stand against her attacker.
A report in Houston Press detailed how a prosecutor booked her in jail for 27 days in order to secure her testimony and a conviction last year.
The bill was introduced by Sen. John Whitmire after media reports on Jenny’s case.
It requires a hearing before any witness is held in a Texas jail on a writ of attachment.
This is a legal document giving a county permission to hold a witness who has refused to testify. The new bill also requires an attorney be appointed to represent the witness. Jenny’s Law also requires a public court hearing, as opposed to a hearing in a judge’s chambers as happened in Harris County last year. The law requires a re-hearing of the case after 15 days and that a state report is compiled to make sure witnesses are not being locked up.
Attorneys acting for Jenny said information went missing in the case and there was a no mention of medical records from a mental institution in Jenny’s jail file.
Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg applauded the bill according to a report in the Houston Chronicle, saying the measure will provide witnesses in criminal cases the same constitutional protections as the defendants they are testifying against in the case.
The locking up of a rape victim was another disturbing aspect of the criminal justice system in Texas. If you have been charged with a crime in the Lone Star State, you should hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Please contact our Fort Worth criminal defense lawyers here.