HOUSTON – Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman, in response to a Channel 2 team investigation, says it "seemed like an unfortunate circumstance" that a bipolar rape victim was jailed for 27 days after having a mental breakdown while testifying against her accused attacker.
In an interview conducted Friday in Long Beach, California, where Hickman is attending a conference, he told Larson, "Certainly for us it seemed like an unfortunate circumstance for a person who was a witness to a criminal event, who had been victimized herself, to be put into the jail."
The victim, Jenny, was sent to county jail because county prosecutors worried she wouldn't return to complete her testimony when the trial resumed a month later.
Jenny was initially admitted to St. Joseph's Medical Center, immediately after suffering the breakdown on the witness stand and running from the courtroom.
But after a brief stay at the hospital, Harris County prosecutors obtained a court order to put Jenny in the Harris County Jail until the case resumed, fearing she would disappear.
Jenny's attorney said she was put in jail without due process, placed into the jail's general population and given a black eye by another inmate while in custody for nearly a month over Christmas. Jenny also suffered injuries when she was punched by a jailer after she attacked the guard.
Jenny was charged with assault but prosecutors later dropped the charge.
Hickman said the jail was not informed by the District Attorney's Office that Jenny was a mentally ill rape victim. He says had jail staff been aware, they could have moved her to a safer environment.
"It would have given us an opportunity to accommodate it if we can. With the population we currently have available, space is at a premium. Certainly we would have tried to find out if some type of segregated space was available, we would have used that," Hickman said.
He said when he learned about Jenny's mental state and the fact she was a rape victim, he worked to get assault charges against Jenny dropped.
"It seemed to be a situation that cried out for an immediate response," Hickman told Larson.
Hickman said at that point, after 27 days in jail, Jenny was released within six hours.
"I was shocked like body else would be. The more more you find out, you can see how unfortunate it is," Hickman said.
Larson just completed the interview with Hickman. He is working on new stories for Channel 2 News at 4, 5 and 6 p.m. and will be updating Click2Houston.com and his Facebook and Twitter accounts throughout the day.