A Victim Is Not An Accomplice: Tennessee’s Supreme Court Bucks Precedent In Statutory Rape Case

The court found that a minor who cannot be charged with the crime does not qualify as an accomplice. It also The court found that a minor who cannot be charged with the crime does not qualify as an accomplice. It also pointed out that children's testimony is accepted without corroboration in cases when they are the victims of other forms of rape. Credit: Nina Cardona/WPLNpoints to cases of violent rape, in which the victim's testimony is accepted without corroboration. Credit: Nina Cardona/WPLN

The court found that a minor who cannot be charged with the crime does not qualify as an accomplice. It also The court found that a minor who cannot be charged with the crime does not qualify as an accomplice. It also pointed out that children’s testimony is accepted without corroboration in cases when they are the victims of other forms of rape. Credit: Nina Cardona/WPLNpoints to cases of violent rape, in which the victim’s testimony is accepted without corroboration. Credit: Nina Cardona/WPLN

Tennessee’s Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that a victim of statutory rape cannot be considered an accomplice.

At issue was how much the testimony of a then-14 year old girl should count in the trial of Dewayne Collier, who was 42 when he had sex with her. Collier’s lawyers argued the girl should be considered an accomplice, given that she was a willing participant. That’s an important point, because the word of an accomplice has to be backed up with more evidence. In this case, there isn’t that kind of definitive proof.

Historically, Tennessee courts have agreed with that way of thinking. The decision from the state high court does acknowledges that precedent. However, it also points to the reasoning given in those earlier decisions, saying they were based on ideas and approaches the state has otherwise rejected.

In addition to stating that there is sufficient evidence to convict Collier, the justices specifically overruled all Criminal Appeals Court decisions calling for corroboration of victim’s testimony in cases of statutory rape.


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