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Resistance Not Needed to Prove Rape--Justices

July 31, 1986|PHILIP HAGER | Times Staff Writer

SAN FRANCISCO — The California Supreme Court eased the way today for prosecutors to obtain convictions for rape, ruling unanimously that victims do not need to show they resisted their assailants.

The justices found that in enacting amendments to the law in 1980, the Legislature had clearly intended to remove the need to establish resistance as a prerequisite to rape convictions in order to relieve victims of the "potentially dangerous burden" of resisting attackers in order to substantiate allegations of rape.

The court, in an opinion by Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird, said its ruling was in keeping with a recent trend of "removing evidentiary obstacles" to prosecutions in sexual assault cases.

Sexual History Barred

In recent years, the Legislature has limited psychiatric examinations of rape victims, barred judges from warning jurors that an "unchaste woman" is more likely than others to consent to sexual advances, and largely prohibited the use in court of evidence of an alleged victim's prior sexual conduct.

In the case before the court, the justices reinstated the rape and false imprisonment conviction of a San Francisco man accused in the sexual assault of a woman during an alleged marijuana transaction at his residence.

No Physical Threat

The state Court of Appeal in San Francisco had overturned the conviction on the grounds the man had not specifically threatened physical harm to the woman and she had acceded to his demands "without any explicit protestation or measurable resistance."

The appellate ruling had drawn strong criticism from law enforcement authorities. San Francisco Dist. Atty. Arlo Smith, expressing his "deepest concern and dismay," had urged that the decision be reversed.

The state Attorney General's office, bringing the case to the Supreme Court, called the appellate court ruling "an astonishing legal and factual injustice" and said it threatened to seriously undermine the changes the Legislature made in the law aimed at aiding the prosecution of rape charges.

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