Saturday, March 18, 2006

30 Second Delay Equals Four Years in Prison   posted by TangoMan @ 3/18/2006 02:53:00 PM

I came across this sexual assault court case and thought it would make for an interesting post. Here are the established facts:

  • The complainant [Christine Elizabeth Watson] was befriended by the wife [Katrina Ann Carter, AKA Mrs.Ibbs] and, when the man with whom the complainant had been living required her to leave their house, she and the two children went to live in Ibbs' house. The applicant [Kevin Ibbs] was attracted to the complainant and Mrs Ibbs, at the applicant's [Kevin Ibbs] request, asked her to have sexual intercourse with him.

  • In evidence the complainant and the applicant agreed on the sequence of events that evening, though their evidence differed in some respects. After the applicant first effected penetration, the complainant objected that it was not right and that Katrina was her best friend. The applicant then withdrew and asked Mrs Ibbs to speak to the complainant, which she did. These events may have been repeated. Finally, after speaking with Mrs Ibbs, the complainant said: "Well, let's get it over with". The applicant again effected penetration. The complainant became upset during intercourse, saying "it's not right". Nevertheless, the applicant continued to ejaculation. The complainant tried to push him away, but the applicant said that that occurred "right at the last minute".

In conferring judgement Justice Kennedy notes:

  • "I find it difficult to identify the period of the continuation after the critical moment. It is however enough to say that it was an appreciable time, perhaps up to 30 seconds, after she commenced to try to push you away from her."

Justice Kennedy imposed the following sentence:

  • Having regard to all the matters placed before me, and not having overlooked the period which you have spent in custody already, I have determined that you will be sentenced to a term of four years'imprisonment.

  • An application to the Court of Criminal Appeal for leave to appeal against sentence was, by majority, dismissed.

Interesting as this case is, it's not the end of the story. Years later, Watson confessed to police that she and Mrs Ibbs conspired to have Ibbs charged with sexual assault so as to get him out of the house. In 1997 they served seven months in jail for conspiring to pervert the course of justice. It took until March 22nd, 2001 for the West Australian Court of Criminal Appeal to unanimously overturn the conviction of Kevin Ibbs.

Unresolved in the case law is the question of exactly how much of a window of time does a man have in which to comply with a woman's cease and desist order. The court has determined that the outer bounds of 30 seconds constitutes rape. How about 25 seconds? Is that rape or can one plead to a reduced charge? Also, would it be admissable to introduce IQ and reaction time data as part of a defense strategy to make the case that the man is in a diminished mental state brought on by sexual excitement and there is a lag between hearing the cease and desist order and the mental processing required to affect compliance and that the actual brain circuitry will be different for each individual thus making a hard and fast stop clock rule impractical? Also, should the court weigh the "30 second rule" depending on when during the sexual act the cease and desist order was uttered. We know that the male brain process orgasm differently than the female brain:

In men, greater activity was seen in the insula, which deals with emotion, and particularly in the secondary somatosensory cortex, which rates the significance of physical sensations. This suggests that the sensory input coming from the genitals is being judged highly important and pleasurable by the brain.

Here is a more scholarly treatment of the topic:

Primary activation was found in the mesodiencephalic transition zone, including the ventral tegmental area, which is involved in a wide variety of rewarding behaviors. Parallels are drawn between ejaculation and heroin rush. Other activated mesodiencephalic structures are the midbrain lateral central tegmental field, zona incerta, subparafascicular nucleus, and the ventroposterior, midline, and intralaminar thalamic nuclei. Increased activation was also present in the lateral putamen and adjoining parts of the claustrum.

I'd love to be in the court when a defense attorney is trying to establish precisely when the cease and desist order from the woman was issued, what mental state the man was in at that point of the sexual act, asking the court to give some consideration to diminished capacity if the cease and desist order was issued just prior to, or during, orgasm rather than at the earlier stages of the sex act, and then arguing that the woman was partly responsible for inducing the mental state coincident with orgasm by willfully agreeing to participating in a sex act that brought the man to a state of diminished capacity via orgasm. As an outside observer, these issues would be very interesting to work through.