Alleged Teen Rape Victim Being Held in Juvenile Detention to Make Sure She'll Testify

Illustration for article titled Alleged Teen Rape Victim Being Held in Juvenile Detention to Make Sure She'll Testify

When you think of all the appropriate ways to treat a teenage victim of rape, putting them in a juvenile detention facility usually isn't on the list. Yet that is exactly what's happening in Sacramento, California, to a 17-year-old girl who is the victim of an alleged sexual assault. She's being held to ensure that she'll show up and testify at the trial of her alleged attacker, Frank William Rackley. The girl failed to appear at a preliminary hearing and again at his trial at the end of February, which had to be rescheduled as a result. The new trial has been set for April 23rd. She is in the state's foster care system and apparently has a history of running away. She's being held on a material witness warrant. She was seen by a judge on March 27th and has been in custody since then.


Her attorney is obviously objecting to this kind of treatment, but Albert Locher, the Sacramento County District Attorney, said, "The last thing we ever want to do is put a victim or a witness in custody, but when you have serious crimes of violence and a multiple offenses, you have to balance the protection of the community here."
Rackley, the victim's alleged attacker, has a long criminal history and was arrested once before for rape but the charges were dropped. The girl's testimony is crucial to the case against him.

It makes sense that they need to ensure she appears at the trial, but it's hard to believe there's not a better way to make sure she sticks around. She shouldn't be thrown into detention and treated like a criminal when she's the victim, and it certainly sounds like she's been through enough trauma for a lifetime. This is when you wish life was like an episode of Law & Order: SVU, where they'd put her up in a hotel with a cop to watch her. As it is, her detention needs to be reviewed every 10 days, and she's up for review today. So perhaps the judge will think better of his decision and find a more comfortable arrangement for her.

Alleged Rape Victim Jailed to Ensure Testimony [ABC]

Image via Sponner/Shutterstock.



This is really complicated. I think it is important to be able to detain material witnesses, and being a victim of the crime, while awful, does not gives a person the right to violate the law herself.

Of course, I sympathize. Especially because it appears as if this girl has an unstable home life. Otherwise, I doubt she would be held in custody. And I hate the idea of a child being "punished" because of the failure of adults in her life.

But I do not know of a better way. How else are we supposed to conduct trials and pursue justice without the power to compel witnesses to appear? That power is only *more* important when the crime is of a violent nature and likely to recur if the perpatrator is not punished. I don't have a better answer.