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State v. N.P.

March 31, 1997

N.P., B.D. 10/13/76 APPELLANT.

Appeal from Superior Court of Whatcom County. Docket No: 94-8-00357-5. Date filed: 08/31/95. Judge signing: Hon. Frank Morrow.

Per Curiam. N.P. appeals from his conviction in juvenile court for one count of second degree rape. He argues that the superior court, in denying his motion for revision, violated his due process rights. He also argues the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction. Viewed in context, the record shows that the superior court neither ignored the presumption of innocence, nor shifted the burden of proof to the defense.

In addition, the evidence of forcible compulsion was sufficient to support N.P.'s conviction. Accordingly, we affirm.

A detailed recitation of the testimony presented at the lengthy fact-finding hearing is unnecessary for purposes of the issues raised on appeal.

On the evening of April 7, 1994, 16-year-old J and several friends attended a party. J testified that she left the party with N.P., a high-school acquaintance, and drove to N.P.'s house. The two then entered a motor home parked on the property and began kissing. According to J, N.P. eventually had forced intercourse with her, despite her protestations, attempts to resist, and repeated orders to stop.

N.P. denied driving J to his house or having intercourse with her.

Most of the other juveniles present at the party had been drinking and gave differing and sometimes inconsistent accounts of the evening's events.

The juvenile court commissioner found N.P. guilty as charged and entered written findings of fact and Conclusions of law. The superior court subsequently denied N.P.'s motions for revision and reconsideration.

On appeal, N.P. first contends the superior court violated his due process rights in denying the motion for revision. In its oral ruling, the superior court commented that after reviewing the record, it could find no motive for the victim to lie about the rape "throughout the entire presentation of the case on either side." The court further observed that had the defense been one of consent, rather than complete denial, it would have been unable to find forcible compulsion beyond a reasonable doubt.

The court subsequently entered a written finding to the effect that no motivation was established for J to falsely accuse N.P. of rape.

N.P. argues that the court's analysis essentially required the defense to establish a motive for the victim to lie. In so doing, N.P. reasons, the court ignored the presumption of innocence and improperly shifted the burden of proving reasonable doubt to the defense.

In its lengthy oral ruling, the superior court stated that it was taking the unusual step of sharing its thought processes for the benefit of the parties. As the court noted, the case involved fundamentally diverging accounts of the night in question by J and N.P. The credibility of these two witnesses was therefore the primary issue to be resolved by the trier-of-fact. In this context, the court explained that it had found the absence of any motive to lie to be a significant factor in assessing J's credibility. The court also reviewed in detail the evidence that it found to be significant in assessing both J's and N.P.'s testimony.

Neither expressly nor implicitly did its comments about the significance of a motive to lie and the result it would have reached had the defense relied on a different theory suggest that the court ignored the presumption of innocence or expected the defense to establish a motive for J to lie. Indeed, the court expressly stated that motive to lie was "not an element of proof." Rather, viewed in context, the oral ruling demonstrates that court's decision properly rested on the evidence in the record.

N.P. next argues that the evidence of "forcible compulsion" was insufficient to establish second degree rape. In order to convict N.P. of second degree rape, the State was required to establish that he had sexual intercourse with J by "forcible compulsion." RCW 9A.44.050(1)(a). The meaning of forcible compulsion includes physical force that "overcomes resistance." RCW 9A.44.010(6). Forcible compulsion requires more than the force required to achieve sexual intercourse:

Where the degree of force exerted by the perpetrator is the distinguishing feature between second and third degree rape, to establish second degree rape the evidence must be sufficient to show that the force exerted was directed at overcoming the victim's resistance and ...

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