Monday, January 21, 2013

Tennessee: Victim of statutory rape can be an accomplice

In 2008, an Arkansan teenager called an adult family friend in Tennessee and asked him to pick her up, according to prosecutors, and the two engaged in consensual sex multiple times.

After a jury convicted the man of aggravated statutory rape in 2010, his attorneys appealed. Part of the defense was that since the girl was technically an accomplice in the sex acts, her testimony needed additional proof, according to the Tennessean.

Under Tennessee law, a victim of statutory rape can be considered an accomplice in the crime against her, though that might not be the case for long.

The state Supreme Court has agreed to take on the case of Arkansas girl and the man from Tennessee, which could lead it to dust off and possibly overturn the arcane interpretation of the law.

The rule, which has gone unchallenged for more than a century, emerged from an 1895 incest case in which a Tennessee court found no “evidence of force” in a case involving an uncle having sex with his niece. The court ruled, however, that both could be convicted of incest, reported the Tennessean.

To have such an interpretation on the books in the 21st century is an outrage, some observers say.

“We cannot expect victims to feel safe enough to break free and seek relief when they face the prospect of being victimized again by our legal system,” Cathy Gurley, executive director of You Have the Power, a victims’ rights organization told the Tennessean.

The rule, she said, “undermines society’s obligation to protect children.”

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