Supremes to Rule on Rape Victim as Accomplice in Crime

Under Tennessee law, a victim of statutory rape can be considered an accomplice in the crime against her, reports the Tennessean. That could change soon.
The state Supreme Court has agreed to take on a case involving a 14-year-old girl from Arkansas and a Memphis man, which could lead it to dust off and possibly overturn the arcane interpretation of the law. The rule, which has gone unchallenged for more than a century, emerged from an 1895 incest case in which a Tennessee court found no “evidence of force” in a case involving an uncle having sex with his niece.
The high court recently agreed to hear the case of Dewayne Collier, whom a Shelby County jury convicted in 2010 of aggravated statutory rape. Collier, through his attorneys, has maintained his innocence from the outset.
The court ruled, however, that both could be convicted of incest. To have such an interpretation on the books in the 21st century is an outrage, some observers say.
“We cannot expect victims to feel safe enough to break free and seek relief when they face the prospect of being victimized again by our legal system,” said Cathy Gurley, executive director of You Have the Power, a victims’ rights organization.
The rule, she said, “undermines society’s obligation to protect children.”
In its final appeal stage, the high court expressed keen interest in the thorny questions raised by Collier’s case: Can the victim of a sexual offense be a criminal accomplice? If so, do prosecutors need supporting evidence beyond an accomplice’s testimony to convict a defendant?
Both questions, according to legal experts, have far-reaching implications for how sex crimes are prosecuted in Tennessee.

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