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.
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.