Texas Legislature

“Jenny’s Law” Will Take Effect September 1

The law, named for a rape victim jailed by Harris County prosecutors, guarantees crime victims the right to an attorney and an open hearing when they are subpoenaed to testify against their attackers.

District Attorney Kim Ogg announced the diversion program during a press conference held at the Harris County Criminal Justice Center, where she was accompanied by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, among others.

A legal scandal that upended last year’s race for Harris County District Attorney has produced a law some are calling a national milestone in victims’ rights. Senate Bill 291, better known as “Jenny’s Law,” is set to take effect September 1. 

Special Coverage Of The 85th Texas Legislative Session

Special Coverage Of The 85th Texas Legislative Session

In December 2015, Harris County prosecutors jailed a rape victim, in order to make sure she testified against her rapist. The woman, identified only as “Jenny,” suffered from mental illness and broke down during her testimony.

“I felt like it was important for Texas law to protect women and other people in such situations by giving them at least the equal due process rights equal to those of their attackers,” said Harris County DA Kim Ogg during an appearance on Houston Matters.

Jenny’s Law requires that any witness subpoenaed and brought to court forcibly have the right to an attorney and an open hearing.

“Jenny was a victim and had no business or place in the Harris County Jail,” Ogg said. “I personally don’t blame the jailers. They mischaracterized her, because jail isn’t for crime victims. But it was an unfortunate situation that, thanks to Jenny, no other crime victim will have to face in the future in Texas.”

Houston Senator John Whitmire proposed the legislation. The Texas Senate passed it unanimously, the House nearly so. Governor Abbott signed the bill on Memorial Day.

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Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew heads Houston Public Media’s coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas delegations in the U.S. House and Senate, as well as the Texas governorship, the state legislature, and county and city governments. Before taking up his current post, Andrew...

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