January 4, 2013
Rape case story prompts promise of legislative action
By: Elex Michaelson
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Eyewitness News first reported on it Thursday night, and now there is a widespread call for action to plug a loophole in California's rape law.
Thursday night, Eyewitness News was the only local station to bring this story to light, and the response from the public was overwhelming. Hundreds and hundreds of viewers wrote on the ABC7 Facebook page saying it's time to change this obscure law immediately.
Friday, several prominent California lawmakers, including the chair of the California Legislature's Women's Caucus, weighed in on the issue.
"I was horrified, it's so hard to believe," said state Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal (D-Long Beach).
Lowenthal reacted like so many people did to the scenario, re-created on-air Thursday night.
A man enters the bedroom of an unmarried woman. After seeing her boyfriend leave late at night, he has sex with the women while pretending to be her boyfriend.
Citing a law from 1872, appellate judges ruled "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."
"That would be like applying the horse and buggy laws to freeways today -- you can't do that," said Lowenthal. "I expect to change the law as soon as I can."
California Attorney General Kamala Harris agrees, saying in a statement: "This law is arcane and I will work with the legislature to fix it."
State Senator Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa) says she'll introduce legislation to close this loophole.
State Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez (D-East Los Angeles) wants to do the same, as does republican state Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian (R-San Luis Obispo).
"It will be bipartisan, and that's really important," said Lowenthal.
The night in question began for the alleged rape victim, called "Jane Doe," drinking several beers at a Cerritos party. She left with her boyfriend and headed home with friends.
Inside her bedroom, "Jane" and her boyfriend decided against having sex. He left after Jane fell asleep.
Prosecutors say Jane woke up to the sensation of having sex, realized it wasn't her boyfriend, and pushed him away.
The defendant, Julio Morales, continued the sex as she cried, but eventually left the room.
Morales served three years in prison on a felony rape conviction. But this week appellate judges overturned that conviction because the jury wasn't told about that 1872 rape law.
- Link: CA appellate court's opinion on Jane Doe rape
- Story: Calif. law allows convicted rapist to go free
Even if the law is changed for the future, it couldn't be applied retroactively to re-try Morales.
"When you have some evidence, enough evidence, to go to trial but because of a loophole, you don't get justice, that's a horrible feeling a victim goes through," said Patti Giggans, executive director of Peace Over Violence.
Achadjian says there was a similar case to this in Santa Barbara last year where an attacker pretended to be a boyfriend but could not be prosecuted for felony rape.
After that, Achadjian says he introduced a bill to change the law that passed the state assembly unanimously but got caught up in a state senate committee.
Now, he says, after hearing about our story, he'll introduce new legislation early next week.
January 4, 2013
Legislators vow to shut legal loophole in Los Angeles rape case
By: Jim Saunders
Sacramento Bee (sacramentobee.com)
Three California lawmakers vowed separately Friday to eliminate a legal disparity that allowed a man to escape a rape conviction in Los Angeles County this week because the victim was not married.
Assemblymen Jimmy Gomez, Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian and state Sen. Noreen Evans moved quickly in the wake of a state appellate court decision that derailed a rape conviction.
Attorney Gen. Kamala Harris vowed to work with the Legislature on the issue, saying "the evidence is clear that this case involved a nonconsensual assault that fits within the general understanding of what constitutes rape."
Lawmakers are targeting the issue after a state appeals court overturned the conviction of Julio Morales, who walked into the bedroom of a sleeping woman and began having intercourse after her boyfriend walked out, the Los Angeles Times reported this week.
When the woman realized that Morales was a stranger, she screamed and resisted, the Times said.
Gomez, D-Los Angeles, told The Bee today that he has asked the legislative counsel's office to draft language to eliminate that loophole. He also has begun reaching out to law enforcement and to women's groups for suggestions, aides said.
"Rape is rape, and we need to do something about this," Gomez said.
Achadjian, R-San Luis Obispo, said he will introduce legislation to solve the problem by expanding the definition of rape to include cases where a perpetrator deceives a victim into sexual activity by impersonating the person's boyfriend or girlfriend.
"Californians are justifiably outraged by this court ruling, and it is important that the Legislature join together to close whatever loopholes may exist in the law and uphold justice for rape victims," Achadjian said in a prepared statement.
Evans, D-Santa Rosa, plans to reword the penal code statute to cover cases involving a "sexually intimate partner," which would include domestic partners and gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender lovers.
"Having sex with an unconscious person is rape -- period," Evans said in a written statement Friday.
Gomez said he does not have a specific proposal but has begun the process of devising one.
In overturning Morales' conviction Wednesday, the Los Angeles-based 2nd District Court of Appeal urged the Legislature to alter the 1870s law that prompted their ruling.
Of Morales, the court said:
"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."