People v. Newton

8 N.Y.3d 460 (2007)

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People v. Newton

New York Court of Appeals
8 N.Y.3d 460 (2007)

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Facts

The State of New York (plaintiff) charged James W. Newton, Jr. (defendant) with crimes including first-degree sodomy and third-degree sodomy based on allegations that Newton had forcibly compelled a 19-year-old male to engage in nonconsensual oral sex. Newton asserted that he had been consuming beer before the alleged incident, and he claimed that he perceived the sexual act to be consensual because the alleged victim had not resisted or otherwise communicated a lack of consent. At trial, Newton’s lawyer asked the trial court to give a jury instruction on intoxication, on the theory that Newton’s intoxication was relevant because it negated the mental-state element of the charged crimes. However, the trial court gave the requested intoxication instruction only with respect to the first-degree-sodomy charge. The court explained that a first-degree-sodomy conviction required a finding beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intended to forcibly compel another person to engage in the sexual act, but by contrast, third-degree sodomy had no element of intent or other required subjective mental state. Instead, a third-degree sodomy conviction required a finding beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the sexual act despite a clear expression of lack of consent by the alleged victim that would have been understood by a reasonable person in the defendant’s situation. The court charged the jury that if Newton failed to understand the victim’s expression of nonconsent solely because Newton was intoxicated at the time, that was not a defense to the third-degree sodomy charge. The jury acquitted Newton of first-degree sodomy but found him guilty of third-degree sodomy. The appellate court affirmed Newton’s conviction, and he appealed to the New York Court of Appeals.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Read, J.)

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