Group demands investigation into DA's jailing of rape victim

By Jace Larson - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - A national organization that fights for the rights of mentally ill people is calling for an independent investigation into a rape victim who was put in jail after she had a mental breakdown on the witness stand at the trial of a man who raped her.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness recently wrote a letter to Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson.

A Channel 2 investigation exposed how a woman named Jenny was jailed for 27 days after prosecutors were worried Jenny would not return to testify in court.

[Read Channel 2’s investigation exposing Jenny’s situation]

Jenny is now suing several law enforcement officials in Harris County including the prosecutor who tried the rape case against Keith Hendricks, a guard who punched her after she assaulted him in jail, Sheriff Ron Hickman who runs the jail and Harris County in general.

Hendricks was eventually sentenced to two life sentences after Jenny was brought from the jail to testify against Hendricks.

“The alleged facts of this case are appalling,” said Mary T. Gilibert, Chief Executive Officer of the national Alliance on Mental Illness, in a letter to Anderson.

Anderson defended the actions of her office in a video statement issued to Channel 2 last week.

[Watch Anderson’s video statement]

“In your statement, you asked “how were we to assure that a homeless, mentally ill victim of an aggravated sex assault would return to testify at the trial of her rapist when that victim was going through a life-threatening mental health crisis and had expressed her intention not to testify?”

“We and our Houston affiliate are disappointed that as District Attorney, you made the choice to incarcerate Ms. Doe. It is inexcusable to jail someone experiencing a ‘life-threatening mental health crisis.’ In addition, to expose someone who has been through the profoundly traumatic experience of an aggravated rape and assault by placing her in a situation that is likely to perpetuate further trauma and despair is simply wrong. Would your office have responded the same way to someone who you feared might not be able to return to testify due to heart disease, diabetes or a traumatic brain injury,” the letter continued.

Giliberti’s letter asked to meet with Anderson and her top assistants “to ensure that situations like this one will not recur.”

Giliberti is the third person to call for an independent investigation.

Kim Ogg, who is running against Anderson in November, called for an investigation Wednesday. Ogg announced a news conference planned for Tuesday

“Ogg will declare no victim of sex crimes will ever be jailed again to make them testify,” a release from her campaign stated.

Ed Gonzalez, who is running against Sheriff Ron Hickman in the general election, also called for such an investigation.

Hickman told investigative reporter Jace Larson on Friday that he does not think there is a need for a special investigation.

[Watch Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman discuss situation]

Hickman regretted that it took him nearly four weeks to learn of Jenny’s situation.

He said he worked to free Jenny within hours of learning she was in his jail.

Have a tip for investigative reporter Jace Larson, email or text him at jlarson@kprc.com or 832-493-3951.

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