Today’s dilemma concerns Claire, 14, and Tom, 20.
Claire has run away from home and managed to cross the country. Claire matured early and looks far older than her years and has taken her older sister Clara’s birth certificate and educational certificate. Clara is 20. Claire now pretends to be Clara. Tom is an auto mechanic and the two meet on a Greyhound bus and he and ‘Clara’ hit it off. Tom offers Clara the use of his couch while she gets herself set up in town. He helps her set up a bank account etc, during which time he sees the birth certificate. Clara gets a Mc job and after a few days gets into Tom’s bed - her initiative, not his. (Clara has a very modest educational record, but Claire knows she’s no better.) After a month or so, their domestic bliss is rudely interrupted by the police who have tracked down Claire.
Tom is now in front of you in court accused of statutory rape. Guilty or Not Guilty?
It’s going to depend on the state. In some states, like Indiana, reasonable belief, like meeting someone in a bar, is a defense for statutory rape. In other states, like NY, it isn’t. The actual age of the victim is all that matters. Deliberate deception by the victim might be a mitigating factor in sentencing, but the crime speaks for itself.
In Indiana, the guy probably wouldn’t even be on trial-- he wouldn’t even get charged. In NY, he’d probably plea bargain.
Not guilty. Slam dunk, as a juror anyway.
This actually happened in San Diego a few years back. Teenage girl (14 or 15) goes missing and everyone thinks abduction. Fast forward a week or so and she is discovered in some college kid’s apartment after his roommate saw her on the news and called police. Turns out the 2 met on a dating website & she presented herself as a 19 year old. They had spent the week in his apartment partying and having sex.
Subsequently, several other men came out of the woodwork and said they met her on dating sites, then met her in person & didn’t pursue a relationship for one reason or another. Charges were never filed against the guy whose apartment she was found in, nor should they have been.
I think this is, under strict liability, one of those “It’s not fair to convict but you are technically guilty” situations. I would vote to either acquit, or, persuade the other jurors to go the jury nullification route.
Akin to Velocity, I think Tom is (assuming strict liability) guilty but not culpable.
In England reasonable belief in age is not relevant, its a strict liability crime, see R v G  UKHL 37.
I’d have to abstain since I’ve charged quite a few with sexual assault because of the age difference. In many years of handling cases not one was unaware of the age difference.
You left out one crucial piece of information. Without it there is no way for a conviction. You mention no evidence that there was any sort of sexual contact. You can’t just assume that because they were living under the same roof.
Not guilty. I don’t care what the law says. After the trial I’ll find a 15 year old girl to say she had sex with the prosecutor.
This case seems like a perfect instance for jury nullification.
Guilty, but only according to an anachronistic law that is rarely prosecuted anymore, unless there are extenuating circumstances, such as the wealth/influence of the girl’s father. Basically, statutory rape falls in that category of gotcha laws, that are widely ignored until the system wants to make an example of somebody.
When that happens, ignorance of actual vital statistics is not an excuse. If her birth certificate says she is underage and penetration occurs, it is legally defined as statutory rape and there is no defense…
TLTE: But if I were the juror, I’d nullify almost every case that I heard. There are way way way too many Americans incarcerated, and I’ll do anything I can to fight the national propensity to use prison as the default fix to our broken society.
Fortunately the jury has the final say on that. But surely seeing what she says is her birth certificate counts as rather more than ‘reasonable belief’?
As a juror: not guilty. And I would hold to that even faced with other jurors who try to uphold a strict liability standard. Jury nullification is an important tool.
Not guilty to me as a juror although the law may vary on its view.
I do not think the juror is guilty in this case.
There’s no defensible reason for statutory rape to be a strict liability crime.
Having been on jury duty many times (always bumped)…
Everyone on this forum would be disqualified by the lawyers (to be chosen as jurors) because everyone here is quite intelligent. Lawyers DO NOT WANT intelligent people period! The dumber the better is their thinking.