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Commonwealth v. Berkowitz

Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
537 Pa. 143 (1994)


Facts

A female college student went to a dorm room looking for a friend, but her friend’s roommate, Robert Berkowitz (defendant), was in the room alone. Berkowitz asked the woman to stay, requested a backrub, and suggested she sit on the bed. The woman stayed, but declined the backrub and sat on the floor. Berkowitz moved to the floor, lifted her shirt, and massaged her breasts. Berkowitz then stood up and locked the door. Berkowitz pushed the woman on the bed; the woman testified that the push wasn’t slow and romantic, nor was it a fast, hard shove. Berkowitz removed the woman’s underwear and penetrated her. At trial, the woman testified that Berkowitz never verbally threatened her, and agreed that his hands were not restraining her in any manner during the actual penetration. Additionally, the woman acknowledged the possibility that she took no physical action to discourage Berkowitz. The woman also testified that she sought to leave the room and said “no” throughout the encounter. Though the woman was aware that the door could easily be unlocked from the inside, she never attempted to go to the door or unlock it. Berkowitz was convicted of rape and indecent assault. Berkowitz appealed his conviction. The appeals court overturned Berkowitz’s rape conviction and reversed and remanded his conviction for indecent assault. The state (plaintiff) then appealed to the state supreme court.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Cappy, J.)

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