Taylor said prosecutors never proved that statutory rape is a violent crime. The Leflore County Circuit Judge and the state’s Court of Appeals disagreed with him. The Supreme Court heard arguments last week. Thus far the Court has been inconsistent in its rulings on statutory rape. The Court has in the past held that “a separate standard of determining violence applies when the victim is a child.”
Those in favor of classifying the crime as violent include Sandy Middleton, executive director of the Center for Violence Prevention, a domestic violence and sexual assault shelter in the state. She said that the violence of the crime is apparent to all those who witness the effects of the crime on the children and how the trauma follows them for the rest of their lives. She said victims become confused about love, sex and guilt and are forced to grow up before they should.
The Legislature revised the statutory rape law in 1998, making it illegal for an adult to have sex with anyone under age 16. Before, the age of consent in Mississippi was 14.
The court record shows that in 1999, Taylor had sex with a girl younger than 14. Her exact age is not specified in the record. Taylor was 19 at the time. A year later, Taylor pleaded guilty to the statutory rape charge along with a charge for the sale of less than an ounce of marijuana. While he was in prison serving time for those crimes he was again convicted, this time of having contraband.
Based on his status as a habitual offender, prosecutors moved to get a life sentence. The judge overseeing the case determined that the statutory rape charge amounted to a violent crime, thus clearing the way for a life sentence. The Mississippi Court of Appeals agreed in a 6-4 decision just last year.
The Court of Appeals based its decision on an older Mississippi Supreme Court case which dealt with a similar question. In that case the Court held that when a minor is involved “… assault with attempt to commit sodomy … was … a crime that was violent, per se.” However, in 2004 the Court discussed statutory rape again and said, “there may be instances of consensual, nonviolent sex which nonetheless violate the statutory rape laws.”
The Court now has a chance to decide once and for all how the crime should be classified. For Taylor the decision is an important one as it will mean the difference of life in prison or a chance to again see the world one day.
If you’ve been involved in something that requires the skill of an experienced Mississippi criminal defense lawyer, please call us today.
Source: “Mississippi high court to consider violence of statutory rape,” by Jack Elliott, published at CommercialAppeal.com.