State v. Rusk
289 Md. 230, 424 A.2d 720 (1981)

  • Rusk met Pat at a bar. They talked for a while and Rusk asked for a ride home. Pat drove Rusk home, telling him that she wanted nothing more to happen.
  • When they arrived at Rusk’s apartment, Rusk took Pat’s car keys and asked her to come upstairs. She did. Rusk then asked her to have sex with him, which she did.
    • Pat made no attempt to resist or flee. Rusk never threatened Pat with violence, he was just authoritative and persistent.
      • Pat testified that at one point during sex, Rusk put his hands around Pat’s throat.
      • Pat further testified that “the way he looked” scared her into compliance.
    • Rusk argued that the encounter was entirely consensual.
  • Afterwards, Rusk allowed Pat to leave, and asked her for her number.
  • Pat went to the police and filed a complain that she had been raped.
  • The Trial Court found Rusk guilty of rape in the second degree. He appealed.
    • The Maryland rape Statute (Maryland Code Criminal Law §3-303), says that a person is guilty if they engage in sex with someone “by force or threat of force against the will and without the consent of the other person.)
    • Rusk argued that there was no evidence that he forced Pat into doing anything, or that he ever threatened to use force.
  • The Appellate Court overturned the conviction. The prosecutor appealed.
    • The Appellate Court found that “Force is an essential element in the crime of rape, and to justify a conviction the evidence must warrant a conclusion either that the victim resisted and her resistance was overcome by force, or that she was prevented from resisting by threats to her safety.
  • The Maryland Supreme Court reversed and upheld the conviction.
    • The Maryland Supreme Court found that the victim’s fear of the assailant can be enough to meet the requirements of §3-303, but that the “victim’s fear must be reasonably grounded in order to obviate the need for either proofs of actual force on the part of the assailant or physical resistance on the part of the victim.”
    • The Court found that the Appellate Court erred when they retried the facts of the case.
      • Whether Pat’s fear was reasonable was a question of fact of the jury to decide, and should not be overruled by the Appellate Court’s reading of the testimony.
  • In a dissent it was argued that the victim must make it plain that she does not give her consent. Force or threat of force is an essential element of the crime, and the prosecutor did not show that any threat of force existed outside of the mind of the victim.
    • In essence, the dissent was saying that in order to convict Rusk, there must be a showing that he threatened the victim. If the victim just believed that Rusk was threatening her, that’s not the same.
  • Basically this case said that a person can be convicted of rape even if they never explicitly threatened force and the victim made no effort to resist. The important factor is whether there was proof that the victim’s fear was reasonable.
    • This decision implies that mens rea is not a requirement for a conviction for rape.