Judges rule: if she had been married it would be rape.
The California Court of Appeals overturned a rape conviction earlier this week based on a controversial law from 1872 which does not protect women from rape when a man is impersonating her boyfriend, but instead only offers those protections to a married woman if the rapist is impersonating her husband the Huffington Post reports.
The panel of judges for the California appeals court has remanded the case for retrial, stating that prosecutors argued two separate theories and it was not clear if the original jury passed down the conviction based on the fact that the defendant, Julio Morales tricked the victim into thinking he was her boyfriend, or because the law defines having sex with a sleeping person as rape.
Although this would seem to be an entirely clear-cut case of rape, both because Morales initiated sex while the victim was asleep and because he was impersonating her boyfriend, Judge Thomas L. Willhite Jr. stated in the courts decision,
Has the man committed rape? Because of historical anomalies in the law and the statutory definition of rape, the answer is no, even though, if the woman had been married and the man had impersonated her husband, the answer would be yes.
So what it comes down to is less a question of whether or not Morales raped his victim, which he clearly did, but more his victim’s marital status. Although under state law he is not guilty of rape for impersonating the victim’s boyfriend, Morales is guilty based on the statutory definition of rape, for initiating intercourse while his victim was sleeping. The appeals court seems to have made its decision based on a very narrow interpretation of what the statutory definition of rape is, and being that it is now the 21st century, applying a law from the 19th century that so clearly discriminates between a person who is married versus a person who is not is, I would argue, a miscarriage of justice, if only because it is so clearly based on social norms that are now outdated?
Should the definition of impersonation rape be the same for both unmarried and married women?
Do you think the court was right in overturning the conviction based on such a narrow interpretation of state law?