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State v. Rusk

    Brief Fact Summary. The Defendant, Edward Salvatore Rusk (Defendant), was convicted of second-degree rape after he took the victim’s car keys and escorted her to his apartment where they engaged in sexual intercourse. The Defendant’s conviction was reversed by the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. The reasonableness of the victim’s fear in determining whether sufficient force was used to support a rape conviction is a question of fact for the jury.

    Facts. The Defendant and the victim met at a bar. After a short conversation, the victim said that she was ready to leave and the Defendant asked for a ride home. The victim assented. She parked at the curb on the side of the street opposite the Defendant’s house, but did not turn off the ignition. The Defendant then asked the victim to come up to his apartment and she refused. After more attempts to convince the victim to come upstairs, the Defendant finally took the keys out of the car, walked over to the driver’s side, opened the door and asked if she would now come up. Finally, she assented to come up to his apartment. Once inside, the Defendant eventually turned off the light and asked the victim to get into bed with him. He pulled her onto the bed and began to remove her blouse. The victim removed her pants and his clothing because he asked her to. When he put his hands on the victim’s throat and lightly choked her, the victim asked if she did what the Defendant wanted would he
    let her go. The Defendant said yes. The victim performed oral sex on the Defendant, and they had sexual intercourse. The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reversed the Defendant’s conviction of rape on the grounds of insufficiency of evidence.

    Issue. Did the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland properly reverse the Defendant’s conviction?

    Held. No. A person is guilty of rape if he engages in vaginal intercourse with another person by force or threat of force, against the will, and without the consent of the other person. A jury convicted the defendant, on the above facts, of rape, and the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland overturned, citing insufficiency of the evidence. Specifically, the appellate court found that the evidence required to support a rape conviction must warrant a conclusion either that the victim resisted and was overcome by force or the victim was prevented from resisting by threats to her safety. The appellate court stated that there was no testimony indicating the victim actively resisted the defendant, nor was there evidence of fear that would overcome the victim’s attempt to resist or escape. The lone dissenting judge at the appellate level stated that the appellate court could not possibly have been in a better position to assess the victim’s fear or the physical characteristics of the defend
    ant. The judge and the jury, having observed all witnesses and hearing the testimony, decided that there was sufficient evidence to find all the elements of rape beyond a reasonable doubt. For the reason expressed by this dissent that the reasonableness of the victim’s apprehension of fear was plainly a question of fact for the jury to determine, the Court of Appeals of Maryland reversed the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland and remanded the case with directions to affirm the conviction.

    Dissent. The evidence adduced at trial was insufficient to convict the Defendant of rape.

    Discussion. Importantly, the dissent in the Court of Special Appeals opinion and the majority here do not opine on whether the force the Defendant used was sufficient, but rather, the rule they have expressed is that they are not in the best position to decide whether the evidence was sufficient to support a rape conviction. The jury must make this decision.


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