Bipolar rape victim jailed after having a mental breakdown while testifying against rapist

Her mind was already fragile as an egg.

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For this 25-year-old bipolar woman — known only as Jane Doe — recounting the harrowing details of being violently choked and raped was too much. She stopped dead in the middle of her testimony at her rapist’s trial in Houston.

She broke.

According to court documents obtained by KPRC, the victim became disoriented and began babbling incoherently. She started crying, stood up from the witness stand and ran through the court to the outside world, screaming behind her that she’d never come back. Eventually, she wandered into traffic in front of the Harris County Criminal Courthouse.

She was involuntarily committed to the psychiatric ward of St. Joseph’s Hospital to stabilize.

“We all agree she needed to be treated for mental instability,” her lawyer Sean Buckley told The Washington Post in a phone interview early Thursday morning.

What he doesn’t agree with is what happened next: Jane Doe was imprisoned in the Harris County jail for 28 days, so the prosecution could ensure she would testify.

Eventually, she did finish testifying against Keith Hendricks, a serial rapist. Hendricks would be sentenced to two life sentences on Jan. 15 and is appealing his conviction.

But the 28 days she spent in jail before that were emotionally and physically damaging, according to Buckley. Because of this, Jane Doe is now suing Harris County and the county’s law enforcement agencies.

After stabilizing in the hospital, the state issued a writ of attachment, which allows police to hold a witness in custody. They can be issued in Texas when witnesses are considered to be a high risk for fleeing rather than testifying. But generally it’s used to hold those with criminal backgrounds or distinct reasons to flee, according to former prosecutor Kim Ogg, who is currently running to be the Harris County district attorney.

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“Putting a witness in jail on a material witness bond is highly irregular and reserved for the worst of the worst witnesses, maybe gang cases,” Ogg told KPRC. “They can be protected by placing them in a hotel, you can place them with family, you can keep in contact.”

Instead, Jane Doe was thrown in Harris County jail for 28 days.

The complaint, which was obtained by The Washington Post, stated, “This lawsuit seeks damages for the Defendants’ and their co-conspirators’ mistreatment of Jane Doe before and during her illegal imprisonment in the Harris County Jail.”

While in jail, the complaint alleges that Jane Doe suffered a number of indignities. Most distressing among them was physical assault from the other inmates, after she was placed in the general population — a fact her lawyer found especially distressing.

“They put her into the general population of the jail, even though the jail has a mental health unit,” Buckley said.

During her time in jail, the complaint stated that she was attacked by another inmate, who “repeatedly slammed her head into the concrete floor.”

When asked about her injuries, Buckley said she had a “superficial brain injury” but couldn’t specify beyond that.

The complaint also stated she “was forced to drink from a spigot attached to a dirty metal toilet.”

Finally, it stated that when Jane Doe was booked into the jail, she was mistakenly booked as the defendant in a sexual assault case.

“Whenever jailers or management of the jail would interface with her, they would see her as a defendant in an aggravated sexual assault case,” Buckley said.

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“Their conduct shocks the conscience,” the complaint stated.

She also had trouble with the guards.

On January 8, Jane Doe allegedly suffered an “acute psychiatric episode and began loudly pleading with God to come to her rescue.” Guards were summoned, and Jane Doe hit one of them, who responded in kind by punching her across the face.

In lieu of fielding questions, Devon Anderson, the current district attorney, released a videotape in which she said she supports the decision to hold Jane Doe in jail. In it, she said Doe was “homeless,” which is in direct contradiction to the complaint, which mentions her “home.”

“I feel compelled to respond, despite the objections from my general counsel,” Anderson said in the video. “This report is disturbing, but there is more to the story that you are not told.”

Anderson continued, stating that the state’s actions were in the best interest for both Jane Doe and the public at large.

“If nothing was done to prevent the victim from leaving Harris County in the middle of trial, a serial rapist would have gone free, and her life would have been at risk, while homeless on the street,” Anderson, adding that she “fully support[s] the prosecutor’s actions.”

She concluded, “There were no apparent alternatives that would ensure the victim’s safety and her appearance at trial.”

Not everyone seemed convinced.

“It’s astounding to me that could have happened,” said KPRC legal analyst Brian Wice. “At the end of the day she received less due process, less protection than the rapist did.”

Judge Stacey W. Bond, who signed the order, told the station she couldn’t speak about the case because Hendricks is appealing the sentence.

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