Gov. Greg Abbott Signs ‘Jenny’s Law’ To Protect Jailed Witnesses To Crimes

Our daily roundup of Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelJune 7, 2017 1:17 pm

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

Another local jurisdiction in Texas is joining the fight over the so-called “sanctuary cities” law.

Senate Bill 4 requires local officials to cooperate with all warrantless requests from federal immigration authorities to keep suspected unauthorized immigrants in jail past their release date.

Now Travis County has decided to take legal action. Travis County Commissioners unanimously voted Tuesday to authorize the county attorney to take action to challenge the bill.

Travis County Attorney David Escamilla stopped short of saying if his office plans to join a lawsuit already filed by Austin and San Antonio.

While Gov. Greg Abbott’s announcement of a special legislative session shined a spotlight on what lawmakers didn’t get done, he’s still signing other bills into law from the just-finished regular session.

One of those bills is called “Jenny’s Law.”

Senate Bill 291 is named for a rape victim who was held in a Harris County jail from late 2015 to early 2016 to ensure her testimony. “Jenny” was jailed after breaking down on the witness stand while testifying against serial rapist, Keith Edwards Hendricks.

“What the bill does – that Sen. [John] Whitmire had introduced – is simply ensure that a victim-witness in a criminal case is going to get an opportunity for a hearing and representation by an attorney if the state decides they want to detain that person to secure their testimony,” says Chris Kaiser, the director of public policy at the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault.

Kaiser says there isn’t data available on how often Texas prosecutors jail rape victims to ensure their testimony, but his group is relieved to see the bill signed into law because so few people come forward about rape.

“One reason for that is that a lot of folks don’t trust that they’re going to be treated well in that system, so any step that the Legislature can take to make sure that people know they’re going to be treated fairly in the system is a step forward,” he says.

“Jenny’s Law” takes effect September 1, 2017.

The vice president is headed to Houston today for a visit to NASA, reports Houston Public Media’s Eddie Robinson.

Vice President Mike Pence will be in the Bayou City today. He will be touring the Johnson Space Center’s Mission Control Center and will also be speaking at the 2017 astronaut selection announcement. America’s newest astronaut candidates have been chosen from more then 18,000 applicants to further human space exploration.