New jail records show how rape victim was treated while behind bars

Mentally ill rape victim was locked up for nearly a month

HOUSTON – Channel 2 Investigates has uncovered new jail records in the case of a mentally ill rape victim who was locked up for nearly a month.

KPRC broke the story of "Jenny" in July, and it triggered an avalanche of change in Harris County.

Prosecutors received new training to help mentally ill victims. Incoming District Attorney Kim Ogg made Jenny's case a cornerstone of her campaign and defeated incumbent Devon Anderson, who defended the decision to put Jenny in jail.

Ogg on Friday fired the prosecutor who handled the case. Next month, lawmakers will take up a new bill to give witnesses more protection.

Investigator Robert Arnold reviewed pages from Jenny's jail file, showing confusion among some staff as to why Jenny was in jail in the first place.

"I think this case, more than anything else, became the litmus test for the public about what type of justice system they wanted," Ogg said.

Even though it's been nearly a year since Jenny was put in jail to ensure her testimony against a serial rapist, questions linger over the treatment she received in the Harris County jail.

Sean Buckley is Jenny's attorney; she's suing the county.

"It appears there was confusion," Buckley said.

Buckley said an employee with the district attorney's office took Jenny to jail immediately after she was discharged from a psychiatric care unit at St. Joseph's Hospital.

"There was a vast amount of medical records from St. Joseph's Hospital that never got into the jail's medical records," Buckley said.

Buckley said he wants to know why there was no mention of those records in Jenny's jail file.

"Personnel with the DA's who took her to the jail also brought her medications from St. Joseph's and her St. Joseph's medical records," Buckley said.

Channel 2 Investigates also examined Jenny's jail records. They contain a notation when Jenny was booked into the jail, indicating she had just been released from St. Joseph's, but there is no mention of outside medical records.

"I'm confident DA's office personnel delivered those things to the jail," Buckley said.

There appeared to be more confusion among the medical staff. During different screenings, one clinician wrote Jenny had been "arrested for aggravated sexual assault" and another noted that Jenny didn't "know why she has been charged," and was "unaware of her current charges."

That last assessment came after prosecutor Nick Socias told KPRC he called and sent emails to the jail to let them know Jenny was a witness, not a defendant and that he thought she should be housed in the mental health unit instead of general population.

During an interview in October, Socias said jail staff disagreed Jenny needed to be housed in the mental health unit.  Socias said jail medical staff told him Jenny appeared stable and indicated she wanted to remain in general population.

“When has it ever been appropriate for a psychiatric staff to take treatment recommendations or treatment orders from the patient herself,” said Buckley.

The Sheriff's Office explained that medical staff at the jail do not have access to criminal records. So the medical staff only saw the court case to which Jenny was attached, not whether she was a witness or a defendant.

"So those conversations are noted and mentioned in the medical records, and the context of that is the medical staff thought she was disoriented," Buckley said.

"I have great concern that a human being was handled like a piece of evidence," Ogg said.

Ogg said when she takes office at the beginning of the year, she will launch another review of exactly what led to Jenny being held on a witness bond in the first place and what exactly was communicated to the jail.

"It has caused me great concern a year later," Ogg said. "We are still not clear on who is responsible for which actions."

The back-and-forth is why state Sen. John Whitmire filed a bill that would require a hearing in open court before a witness bond is granted and if one is granted, an independent attorney will be appointed to watch over the person.

"This lady was stuck in the Harris County jail, lost in the shuffle and had no legal representation to go back to court and point out how difficult her circumstances were," Whitmire said.

About the Author:

Award winning investigative journalist who joined KPRC 2 in July 2000. Husband and father of the Master of Disaster and Chaos Gremlin. “I don’t drink coffee to wake up, I wake up to drink coffee.”