LA rape conviction thrown out on obscure technicality

Julio Morales cannot be convicted of raping a sleeping woman unless she is married, due to California state law, or unless it's proved that Morales knew she was asleep when he forced himself on her. That's a new ruling from the 2nd District Court of Appeals based in Los Angeles. From legal writer Maura Dolan at the LA Times:

The unanimous ruling, from an admittedly reluctant court, overturned the rape conviction of Julio Morales, who entered a sleeping woman's dark bedroom after her boyfriend walked out and began having intercourse with her. The woman screamed and resisted when she awoke and realized Morales was not her boyfriend, the court said.

"A man enters the dark bedroom of an unmarried woman after seeing her boyfriend leave late at night, and has sexual intercourse with the woman while pretending to be the boyfriend," the Los Angeles-based 2nd District Court of Appeals said in Wednesday's ruling. "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."

Santa Clara University law professor Gerald Uelmen called the ruling "bizarre" and likely to spark outrage, but predicted that the California Supreme Court would probably not review it because it was legally sound.

"I think the ball is in the Legislature's court," he said.

Part of the problem is that prosecutors advanced two different legal theories: that Morales raped by tricking the victim, "which applies only to married women," and that he committed rape by having sex with a sleeping person. Prosecutors must pick one, the court ruled. The DA's office was pondering whether to appeal or retry the defendant.

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