A Sacramento, California Superior Court Judge reversed himself earlier today in releasing a 17-year-old rape victim he earlier ordered held on a material witness warrant to compel her testimony at her rapist’s trial. In bowing to growing pressure from victim rights advocates and the public, Judge Lawrence Brown released the girl with a GPS ankle bracelet and apologized saying, “I am truly sorry for all that you’ve been through. You’ve demonstrated great courage for a young woman.”
The teen failed to appear for two prior court appearances, forcing prosecutors to dismiss rape charges against 37-year-old Frank Rackley Sr. In refilling the charges prosecutors obtained a material witness warrant to hold the teenage victim in custody until his trial to ensure her appearance.
Material witness warrants are a tool seldom used by prosecutors. Most witnesses cooperate with the State, especially if they are the victim of the crime. However, in some cases, fear of retaliation, public scrutiny or pressure from family or friends may discourage a witness from testifying. If the crime is serious enough and the prosecutor is not able to prove the case without the witness, he or she may ask the court to issue a warrant for the witness’s arrest to ensure their appearance.
Many District Attorney Offices will not seek material witness warrants against crime victims except in the most extreme circumstances, such as in the case of a homicide. Victim advocates, crime victim attorneys and most prosecutors agree that incarcerating victims discourages other victims from reporting sexual assaults and other crimes. The criminal trial against Rackley is scheduled for April 23rd.
Posted by Josh Lamborn