Houston Chronicle

Judge regrets not checking on ‘Jenny’

Jurist fights state sanctions for order jailing rape victim to ensure her testimony

- By Allie Morris

AUSTIN — Former Harris County Judge Stacey W. Bond on Monday defended a court order that landed a mentally ill rape victim in jail, saying she never meant to incarcerat­e the woman.

“I don’t have an explanatio­n about my inattentio­n, other than that as a judge I can only deal with what's before me, and I have so much before me routinely,” said Bond, who is running for another court seat. “I did not seek out where Ms. Doe was, and I am very sorry that I did not.”

The issue drew national attention and spurred disciplina­ry action by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, which found Bond violated the rights of the victim by issuing an order that landed her behind bars. Bond, who presided over Harris County’s 176th State District Court from 2013 to 2016, fought the sanctions Monday in an appeal before a special three-judge panel.

Bond told the judges her order was meant to ensure the victim’s testimony in an ongoing sexual assault trial against Keith Ed-

ward Hendricks. The victim, known as Jane Doe, or Jenny, suffered a mental breakdown while testifying in the December 2015 trial and was committed to a mental hospital. Jenny was then transferre­d to Harris County jail, where she remained for roughly a month, during which time she was assaulted by an inmate and charged after an altercatio­n with a guard.

Bond’s logic questioned

Bond learned Jenny had been in lockup when the trial resumed in mid-January. Her court did not independen­tly check on the witness’ status before then, she told the judges.

The justices peppered Bond with questions, including several from Justice for the 4th Court of Appeals Rebeca Martinez, who wanted to know why Bond never followed up to ensure her order was carried out as intended.

The special panel is expected to make a decision on Bond’s appeal within 60 days. It could uphold the commission’s action, which ruled Bond improperly issued a “writ of attachment” to ensure Jenny’s testimony, since she wasn’t under subpoena at the time. The commission also cited Bond for not giving Jenny a hearing or other due process protection­s.

Bond testified Monday that the order was intended to allow the district attorney’s office to bring Jenny to court from the psychiatri­c facility on the day of the trial. If she were released sooner, Bond said, she would have released Jenny on a personal recognizan­ce bond with the expectatio­n she show up to testify.

“I thought she would remain at the (psychiatri­c) facility until January 11 and return to testify on that day,” Bond said.

The three judges, however, repeatedly questioned Bond’s logic, asking her why she didn’t follow up and specify dates in the order. Once taken to the county lockup, Jenny was accidental­ly booked as a defendant, rather than a witness. She remained in the general population for roughly a month, during which time another inmate pushed her head onto the concrete floor.

“When someone is taken into custody in any county in the state of Texas, where are they placed? The county jail,” Martinez said. “Did you have any other expectatio­n when signing this order that the individual­s that you direct to bring this witness to you, that they would be delivered to anyone other than the custody of the sheriff ?”

“I anticipate­d they would be delivered to me,” Bond responded.

On the ballot again

Bond, 50, won the Republican primary and in November will be up for election for state district judge in the 185th District Court. The seat is being vacated by veteran Judge Susan Brown.

The victim’s jailing led the state Legislatur­e to pass “Jenny’s Law,” which was signed last year by Gov. Greg Abbott. It guarantees witnesses or victims in sexual assault cases receive a court-appointed lawyer and grants them a formal hearing before a

judge can order them into custody to secure their testimony at trial.

Jenny did not appear at the hearing Monday, but an attorney representi­ng her said the situation is sad.

“The person who is supposed to be gatekeeper for defendants and witnesses failed to protect those rights,” said attorney Maisie Barringer.

 ??  ?? Bond

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States