Brief Fact Summary. This case stems from sexual intercourse between 13-year-old Erica Frazier (Frazier) and the Defendant, 20-year-old Raymond Garnett (Defendant), resulting in the birth of a baby. At the time of the incident, the Defendant had been classified as being mildly retarded.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Traditionally, statutory rape is a strict liability crime designed to protect young persons from the dangers of sexual exploitation by adults, loss of chastity, physical injury and in the case of girls, pregnancy.
Exceptions came to include sex offenses, such as rape, in which the victim's actual age was determinative despite defendant's reasonable belief that the girl had reached age of consent.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Can the Defendant be convicted under Maryland’s second-degree rape provision where he did not have any specific mens rea while committing the act in question?
Held. It is sufficiently clear that Maryland’s second-degree rape statute defines a strict liability offense that does not require the state to prove mens rea and it makes no allowance for a mistake-of-age defense.
Dissent. Both Judge Eldridge (J. Eldridge) and Judge Bell (J. Bell) offered dissenting opinions.
J. Eldridge: Neither the statutory language nor the legislative history of the statute in question indicate that the legislature intended that section to define a pure strict liability offense where criminal liability is imposed regardless of the defendant’s mental state.
J. Bell: To hold that the statute in question does not require the state to prove that the Defendant possessed the necessary mental state to commit the crime offends deeply rooted principles of justice.
Discussion. The court began its decision by pointing out the general notion that the law often disfavors strict liability offenses. However, the court ended its decision by stating that a new provision introducing an element of mens rea should properly result from the act of the legislature rather than the courts. Furthermore, the court downplayed any idea that the Defendant’s mental retardation could act as a defense to the charged offense. The court literally read the language of the rule that proscribed as a strict liability offense any sexual intercourse between anyone under 14 years of age and someone four years or more their senior.