A 17-year old rape victim was jailed last week to insure that she appears in court to testify
against her alleged assailant. Sacramento Superior Court Judge Lawrence G. Brown said that he sympathized with the young girl’s circumstances, but stated that he was taking
the measure in order to insure she appeared to testify at the trial of the defendant, Frank William Rackley Sr., who the prosecutor claims is a serial rapist.
The victim, whose name has not been released, was arrested in March on a material witness warrant, and has now spent about three weeks in jail. The judge based his actions on the fact that she failed to appear in court on two prior occasions to testify against her alleged attacker.
For years, we’ve heard about women rape victims essentially being put on trial when they provide testimony and other evidence against their attackers. Over the years, in response to this issue, as well as the voices of victim’s rights groups, legislation has flourished throughout the country in an attempt to balance the rights of victims with the constitutional rights of those on trial for sometimes the most heinous crimes.
In California, the most significant legislation along these lines is what has become known as Marsy’s law, which amended not only the California Penal Code, but also the state Constitution. What emerged from the law is the Victim’s Bill of Rights. At its core is the right of the the victim of a crime “to be free from intimidation, harassment, and abuse, throughout the criminal or juvenile justice process.”
What’s Wrong with This Picture?
The jailing of a juvenile, as a result of her status as the victim of a horrible crime, is unthinkable, right? But it’s happened right here in our own state. We understand that the
technical basis for the issuance of the warrant and subsequent arrest of this juvenile victim was her failure to appear in court on the rape case when ordered to do so by the judge. And the prosecutor asserts that in view of the fact that the defendant is claimed to be
a serial rapist, the arrest is necessary in this case.
However, in the view of this San Diego criminal attorney, there were alternatives
available that would have avoided the incongruous situation now faced by an innocent young lady, who is in jail not as the result of committing a crime, but rather as a result of being violently attacked. For example, electronic monitoring is in use throughout California, and is recognized as an alternative to jail.
Another problem with the current situation, in addition to the unfortunate position of the particular victim in this case, is that conceptually it has the capacity to set back the clock by decades on both victim’s rights and women’s rights. We are hopeful that the incarceration of this innocent victim will end, so that one tragedy is not compounded by another.