CaseCast™ – "What you need to know"
Brief Fact Summary. The Defendant, Berkowitz (Defendant), was convicted by jury of rape. While the victim said no to the Defendant’s advances, there was no evidence of force or threats made by the Defendant.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. The “forcible compulsion” required to sustain a conviction for rape in Pennsylvania must be more than verbal resistance, i.e. threat or actual force.
Issue. Does the evidence presented establish “forcible compulsion,” as required by the Pennsylvania rape statute?
Held. No. The determination of whether there is sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the Defendant engaged in sexual intercourse by forcible compulsion will be made based upon the totality of the circumstances presented to the fact finder. Here, the victim was not mentally coerced, nor is there any evidence of a threat of forcible compulsion. While the Commonwealth argued that any force used to complete the act of intercourse constituted “forcible compulsion” in the absence of consent, the Pennsylvania Superior Court rejected this notion by stating that the legislature did not criminalize nonconsensual intercourse. Hence, the evidence of force was insufficient to support the conviction.
Discussion. Rape by forcible compulsion requires more than a lack of consent. No does mean no, but rape requires actual force or a threat of force in addition to the failure to consent.