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State v. Alston

    Brief Fact Summary. The Defendant, Alston (Defendant) and the victim Cottie Brown (Ms. Brown) had been involved in a consensual sexual relationship. The Defendant was convicted of raping Brown and he challenged the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his conviction.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Generalized fear of the Defendant is not enough to render consent to sexual intercourse alleged void, but rather, the Defendant must use force or threats to overcome the will of the victim to resist the sexual intercourse.

    Facts. The Defendant and the victim Ms. Brown had been in a consensual sexual relationship. During the six-month relationship, the couple had conflicts at times. Ms. Brown sometimes enjoyed the sexual relations, but she often had sex with the Defendant merely to accommodate him. At times their consensual sexual relations involved violence. Finally, Ms. Brown left the Defendant to live with her mother, but she did not tell the Defendant she wanted to break off the relationship because she was afraid he would be angry. Approximately one month after she had left him, the Defendant approached Ms. Brown where she attended school. The Defendant and Ms. Brown walked and talked for some time, during which he made certain threats about fixing Ms. Brown’s face so that her mother could see he was not playing. Finally, the Defendant took Ms. Brown to a house of a friend of his. After a while, the Defendant asked Ms. Brown if she was “ready.” Ms. Brown replied that she wasn’t going to have sex wi
    th him. The Defendant began kissing Brown and undressing her. He told her to lie down on a bed. She complied, and the Defendant pushed her legs apart and had sexual intercourse with her. Ms. Brown did not try to push him away. The Defendant and Ms. Brown had sexual intercourse on one more occasion after the alleged rape, which appears to have begun as nonconsensual, but ended up being consensual.

    Issue. Is the evidence of the Defendant’s guilt of second-degree rape sufficient to support his conviction?

    Held. No. The State did not offer substantial evidence of the element of force. Force does not require actual physical force. Threats of serious bodily injury are sufficient. Further, the absence of an explicit threat is not determinative. The totality of the circumstances must give rise to a reasonable inference that the unspoken purpose of the threat was to force the victim to submit to unwanted sexual intercourse. Here, Ms. Brown generally feared the Defendant’s actions, but no evidence was adduced that the Defendant used force or threats to cause Ms. Brown to have sexual intercourse on this occasion.

    Discussion. Despite the sexual intercourse being against the victim’s will, the North Carolina Supreme Court held that the force required must be actual and specific rather than generalized fear of the Defendant.


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