A California appeals court has overturned the rape conviction of a man who had sex with a sleeping woman on the basis of legislation dating to 1872, which says only married women are protected from rape by “imposters”.
At a house party in Cerrito in northern California in 2009, the 18-year-old woman went to bed with her boyfriend, who later left her asleep.
Julio Morales, a friend of the woman’s brother, entered the room and began to have sex with her. Only when light from the open bedroom door fell across his face did she realise he was not her boyfriend, at which point, the court documents record, “she pushed him away again and began to cry and yell”.
Morales was convicted of rape and sentenced to three years in prison. However, a three-judge panel “reluctantly” reversed the decision because, under California law, the impersonation ruling only applies if the victim is a married woman.
In their judgment, the appeals panel said its ruling hinged on “historical anomalies in the law” and “...if the woman had been married and the man had impersonated her husband” then the previous ruling would have been upheld. A new trial has been ordered.