Yesterday, the Washington state Supreme Court ruled that those accused of rape no longer have the burden of proof in proving their supposed innocence, reported Reuters.
Before this recent 6-3 ruling, those accused of rape were required to establish evidence that proved sexual actions between them and the alleged victim was consensual. “When a defense necessarily negates an element of the crime charged, the State may not shift the burden of proving that defense onto the defendant,” stated the ruling.
“Requiring a defendant to do more than raise a reasonable doubt is inconsistent with due process principles,” wrote Justice Debra Stephens. According to Stephens, such an action creates “a very real possibility of wrongful convictions.”
“In 1975, the legislature took an important step toward justice for rape victims when it modified the laws to focus on the conduct of the perpetrator and not the victim,” dissented Justice Susan Owens. “Unfortunately, today’s decision by the majority reverses that progress.”
The ruling is risky because sexual assaults are already vastly underreported. Such a ruling could increase that number or, much worse, decrease the number of righteous convictions.
The ruling further stated that “this impermissible shift in burden is not merely academic but risks compartmentalizing forcible compulsion and consent, raising a very real possibility of wrongful convictions.”