A California appeals court reluctantly overturned a 2009 rape conviction Wednesday, finding that impersonating a boyfriend is not the same as impersonating a husband, according to an arcane state law.
Various parties contest some of the specifics of the case, but one key fact is certain: when Julio Morales entered the sleeping woman's dark bedroom and started having sex with her, she thought he was her boyfriend, Victor.
In a 3-0 appeals court opinion, Justice Thomas Willhite wrote that under existing California law, such deception is only a crime if the perpetrator pretends to be a woman's husband (an anomaly the justices "urge the Legislature to reexamine").
"Has the man committed rape?" Justice Willhite wrote in the Second Appellate District Court's opinon. "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 incident happened after a party that all involved had attended. After the party, the woman, identified only as "Jane Doe" and Victor stopped to pick up food and took it to Jane's house to eat. Morales and his friends arrived while the two were eating, and sat in another room. Jane and Victor lay down in her bedroom together after eating, but Victor left soon afterward because he had something to do in the morning.
Morales, at some point, went into Jane's bedroom, and he says, finding her attractive, decided to kiss her on the cheek. Morales claims Jane returned his affections and the situation escalated into sex. Morales told police after the incident that he knew at the time that Jane likely mistook him for Victor. When she realized who he was, she started screaming and he left the room.
Jane, however, says that she awoke to the sensation of having sex and was confused, because she and Victor had decided not to have sex that night. When a passing beam of light allowed her to see better, she realized it was Morales in her room, not Victor, and she tried to push him away, but he forced himself on her. Jane says that when she managed to push him away, he left, and she called Victor, who in turn, called police.
After an initial hung jury, a second L.A. County jury convicted Morales of rape of an unconscious person and the court sentenced him to three years in prison. Morales appealed.
The court's opinion says the prosecutor in the case told the jury that there were two ways Morales could have been found guilty of the crime. First, the jury could decide that Jane was indeed unconscious, meaning she couldn't have given consent. Or they could find that Morales had concealed his identity from her.
Since it's impossible to say whether the jury convicted for the first reason or the second, the court found that it had to overturn Morales's conviction.
Read the full opinon here: