To investigate the actions of the DA’s office that led to her incarceration.
Prosecutors broke the law when they jailed a rape victim in order to secure her testimony against her attacker, the woman’s attorney claimed Monday in a letter to Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson.
Attorney Sean Buckley said he believes prosecutors illegally obtained a court order to confine his client in the Harris County Jail last December, committing the crime of official oppression.
He called on Anderson to appoint a “special prosecutor” to investigate the matter.
“Reasonable minds cannot disagree that I have made more than a colorable claim that your employees engaged in the Class A misdemeanor offense of Official Oppression in their callous and deliberate mistreatment of my client,” Buckley stated in the letter. “This is an exceedingly serious matter on multiple levels that clearly deserves a full, fair and independent investigation by a neutral and detached prosecutor with no ties to your office.”
Anderson countered Monday that her office didn’t break any laws.
“There is no reason to believe that anyone in this situation – the prosecutor or the judge – believed that what they were doing was unauthorized by the law,” Anderson said at a Monday press conference. “No crime was committed. I will not recuse off this case.”
She apologized to the victim, reiterating that prosecutors believed it was the only option at the time.
“I would say something to (the victim), that I’m very sorry about how all of this played out,” she said. “And the last thing that we ever want to do is cause further distress, further trauma to a victim.”
The woman, 25, had agreed to testify against her attacker, Keith Hendricks, but had a mental collapse on the witness stand in December. She was found walking in traffic outside the criminal courthouse and was committed to a psychiatric ward at St. Joseph Medical Center, according to the lawsuit. The judge then delayed the trial until January.
Buckley believes his client was held at St. Joseph through a valid mental health warrant.
“I have no complaint about that,” he said. “We agree she needed to be hospitalized for her mental health condition.”
But prosecutors, he said, also used an improper court order – issued and signed by the judge on the day of the woman’s December testimony – to take the woman into custody following her discharge from St. Joseph.
That order was obtained illegally, Buckley said. According to Texas law, an attachment order can be obtained only if the witness resides in the county or has been served with a subpoena and failed to appear – none of which applied to his client, he said.
“My request for an outside investigation is directed specifically at the allegation that prosecutors broke the law when they did this,” he said.
Court records show that a subpoena was issued for the woman in October, but Buckley said it was never served and was not in effect at the time of trial two months later. Furthermore, he asserted that the original subpoena was defective because it had an incorrect address for his client.
“My position is that no prosecutor could ever conclude that the attachment order used against my client was lawful,” he said. “It’s obvious that this order violates the law.”
See here, here, and here for the background. Normally with this kind of dispute over the facts of a case, you’d let the jury sort it out. Here it means that there won’t be a special prosecutor appointed, unless DA Anderson comes under enough pressure that she relents and appoints one. “Pressure” in this case means political pressure, and so far I haven’t seen much involvement from other officeholders, including Commissioners Court. If and when that happens, it will be a lot harder for Anderson to hold out. The Press has more.