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Tarrant County-originated law helps prosecute repeat sexual offenders

The passing of Molly Jane’s Law requires information regarding sexual violence cases to be reported to ViCAP.
AP Photos
Molly Jane Matheson, whom the law is in remembrance of.

Past criminal offender Jessie Ray was convicted of sexual assault because of links made to his prior crimes using the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program database.

Ray was originally arrested on drug charges, but police were able to connect him to an open rape case because of recorded information about his past offenses. 

Mugshot and sketch of Jessie Ray, which were both uploaded into ViCAP. (Arlington Police Department)

In 2019, the Molly Jane Law was passed, which required law enforcement to enter information regarding reported sexual assaults into the ViCAP database. Although the database was created in the early 1980s, it was never utilized properly in sexual assault cases, said Kim D’Avignon, the chief prosecutor of the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office’s adult sexual response team

The law was created after Fort Worth’s Molly Jane Matheson was raped and murdered by a Tarrant County repeat offender, Reginald Kimbro. Kimbro had been identified by several Texas law enforcement agencies for assaulting and raping women, but was never arrested.

Picture of Tracy Matheson (left) and Molly Matheson (right), for whom the legislative law is in remembrance. (Tracy Matheson)

This law is now being used all over the country to prosecute sexual perpetrators who have repeated offenses on record.

Texas legislation, like Molly Jane’s law, has given prosecution teams better chances of convicting rapists.

With the passing of Senate Bill 476, which required all Texas counties to have an adult sexual assault response team, Tarrant County followed suit.

The Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office voted to create a team of prosecutors who solely work with adult sex crimes, after a joint conference with local agencies that work with sexual assault survivors and law enforcement.

On a national level, 97.5% of adult sexual assault perpetrators will not be convicted for their crimes, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. 

Even when survivors do decide to report and suspects are arrested, the case could not go to trial because of prosecutorial discretion. Of the 35% of rape cases that are cleared, 25.5% are declined to be prosecuted by district attorneys, according to the National Incident-Based Reporting System.

Graphic showing the percentage of by which means sexual assault cases are cleared. (National Incident Based Reporting System)

In July 2018, Tarrant County had an all-time high of 100 individuals reporting sexual assault, according to Tarrant County Texas

The Tarrant County DA found that sexual assaults were being reported on a hospital level but never reached the courtroom. This fact forced leaders to address the issue on a prosecution level to lower sex crime rates in the county.

The team also holds a yearly conference with the Tarrant County Sexual Abuse Advisory Council where keynote speakers talk about related subjects and the public can be heard during testimonies to the team.

Chief Prosecutor D’Avignon said that though these meetings can be controversial and tense, the information in them allows the team to evolve for the needs of the community.

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