Julio Morales was convicted and sentenced to three years in state prison for entering an 18-year-old woman's bedroom and instigating sex with her while she was asleep after a night of drinking at a house party in 2009. According to prosecutors, it wasn't until "light coming through a crack in the bedroom door illuminated the face of the person having sex with her" that she realized Morales wasn't her boyfriend. Holy shit.
But a panel of judges overturned the conviction this week because of a law from 1872 that doesn't give women the same protections as married women because, as we all know, single women are always down for nonconsensual sex, even when they're asleep and/or purposefully tricked into the act.
The court admitted that "If the woman had been married and the man had impersonated her husband" it would be rape. But since there was no ring on her finger, it's not! Is this real life?
"Has the man committed rape? Because of historical anomalies in the law and the statutory definition of rape, the answer is no," Judge Thomas L. Willhite Jr. wrote in the court's decision. He said what happened was "despicable" but that because, according to the AP, "it was unclear if the jury convicted Morales because the defendant tricked the victim or because sex with a sleeping person is defined as rape by law," Morales should be tried again:
... We reluctantly hold that a person who accomplishes sexual intercourse by impersonating someone other than a married victim's spouse is not guilty of the crime of rape of an unconscious person under section 261, subdivision (a)(4).
Irin Carmon points out that the judges aren't total assholes, although they're certainly interpreting the law as strictly as possible:
California law only explicitly makes it a crime to trick someone into having sex if she believes she's having sex with her husband. That's technically true of the law. The judges said that because they couldn't be sure whether the jury had convicted Morales based on correct theory (that she was unconscious) rather than the incorrect one (he pretended to be someone else), the whole case had to be retried.
That's why the judges made two recommendations: One, try Morales for a rape charge because he had sex with an unconscious woman. Two, change the law so what he did is also fraud, whether she was married to her boyfriend or not. A jury will now likely decide the first part. The second recommendation will require enough sustained outrage to get it through the legislature.
But today's news is such bullshit that it's hard to process even with that in mind. Sleeping with someone while they are sleeping is rape. Tricking someone into sleeping with you is also rape, to say the least of what that is. The definition of rape should depend on the act itself, not on the identity of the person you are impersonating. Maybe that didn't go without saying in the Victorian Era, but it sure should now.
To make things clearer, here's what happened from both of their points of view. Warning: it's disturbing.
According to Jane, she woke up to the sensation of having sex. She was in a different position on the bed, perpendicular to the position she had been in when she fell asleep. She was confused because she and Victor had agreed not to have sex that night. When light coming through a crack in the bedroom door illuminated the face of the person having sex with her, i.e., defendant, she realized it was not Victor and tried to push him away. Defendant grabbed her thighs and pushed his penis back into her vagina. She pushed him away again and began to cry and yell. Defendant left her room; Jane locked her door and called Victor, asking him to come back to her house.
He thought she was attractive, so he kissed her on the cheek. She turned toward him, and they kissed some more. He thought she was not asleep because she responded to his kisses, but he also thought she believed he was her boyfriend. They kissed for several minutes, and he became aroused. He began to take her pajamas and underwear off, and she lifted her hips to help him. He unbuckled his belt, pulled down his pants, and began to have sex. He stopped because he felt he was betraying his girlfriend; he did not recall Jane pushing him away, and he did not try to reinsert his penis after he pulled out of her.
When he went to leave the room, it felt like someone was holding the door shut. He finally was able to open the door, and he saw his friend Tony standing outside, laughing.
According to the AP, the law has been applied inconsistently over the years, so it's ridiculous and upsetting that legislators haven't already updated it. They better do so now.
Image via clara/Shutterstock.