Conviction Overturned Because Rape Victim Drank

Law only protects victims when they were given alcohol or drugs without their consent
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 27, 2021 3:00 PM CDT
Conviction Overturned Because Rape Victim Drank
Justice Paul Thissen, shown in 2016, wrote the Minnesota court's opinion.   (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Saying the victim had been drinking earlier of her own free will, the Minnesota Supreme Court has overturned a sexual assault conviction. A lawyer for Francois Khalil, who was convicted in the case in 2019, argued that the felony charge of third-degree criminal sexual conduct could not apply because the law was written to cover instances in which drugs or alcohol were given without the victim's consent. The statute was written "for situations where the victim was “given alcohol surreptitiously (for example, when someone ‘spikes’ a punch bowl at a party)," wrote Justice Paul Thissen, the Pioneer Press reports. The "mentally incapacitated" provision in theory could apply when the victim drank voluntarily, he wrote. But he said that's not how the law was written. An appeals court had upheld the conviction before it reached the state Supreme Court.

Khalil had approached the woman outside a bar after she'd been refused admittance because she appeared intoxicated, per the Washington Post. He invited her and a friend to a party. There was no party, the woman said. She blacked out and woke up to find the man sexually assaulting her on a couch, she said. Thissen pointed out that legislators are looking at the issue: A bill in the Minnesota House would make having sex with someone who is too intoxicated to consent a felony, regardless of how they became intoxicated. Current laws in most states are similar to Minnesota's. The legislation's sponsor said this week that victims in that situation are "entitled to justice. Our laws must clearly reflect that understanding." Khalil is entitled to a new trial. The defense and prosecution agree a crime was committted, Thissen wrote, but disagree on what the charge should be. (More sexual assault stories.)

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