California judge rules assault wasn’t rape because woman wasn’t married

By David Ferguson
Friday, January 4, 2013 11:03 EDT
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Crime victim in tunnel via Shutterstock
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A California appeals court has overturned the rape conviction of a man charged with raping a sleeping woman, basing the decision on an 1872 law that does not protect unmarried women the same protections as those who are married. According to the LA Weekly blog, the court found in favor of Julio Morales, who was convicted of rape after he slipped into bed with a sleeping 18-year-old woman and initiated sex with her, pretending to be her boyfriend.

The assault took place in 2009 at the unnamed victim’s home. She and her boyfriend had fallen asleep together after a night of drinking, agreeing not to have sex that night. The boyfriend, who had an appointment early the next morning, got up and left during the night.

Julio Morales, a friend of the 18-year-old victim’s brother, climbed into bed with the woman and began to have sex with her. Thinking she was with her boyfriend, still, the victim reciprocated, but when a flash of light from the doorway revealed Morales’ identity, she cried out, pushed him away and began to cry.

The reversal of the rape charge is based on an archaic law in the California penal code that, according to the Daily Mail, stipulates “any person who fraudulently obtains the consent of another to sexual relations escapes criminal liability (at least as a sex offender under title IX of the Penal Code), unless he (or she) … masquerades as the victim’s spouse.”

Judge Thomas A. Willhite, Jr. wrote in the court’s 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.”

The court argued, however, that the case should be retried and that the archaic law should be examined and possibly overturned. Willhite called Morales’ actions in the case “despicable,” but that the state’s law left the three judge panel with no choice.

[image via Shutterstock]

David Ferguson
David Ferguson
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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