Sunday, November 17, 2013

Commonwealth v. Fischer case brief

Commonwealth v. Fischer case brief summary
721 A.2d 1111 (1998)


CASE SYNOPSIS
Appellant sought review of his conviction, entered in the Court of Common Pleas of Northampton County (Pennsylvania), for involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault, and related offenses, and of his sentence of two to five years in prison.

CASE FACTS
Appellant was convicted of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault, and related offenses in connection with an incident between him and a female student at the college where they were both freshmen. Appellant was sentenced to two to five years in prison.

ARGUMENT
Appellant argued that he received ineffective assistance of counsel because his trial counsel failed to request a jury charge on the defense of mistake of fact.

DISCUSSION
  • The court held that appellant's belief as to the victim's state of mind was not a defense to sexual assault crimes. 
  • The court recognized that this rule presented scienter problems in the context of sexual assault under forcible compulsion other than by physical force, such as "date rape." 
  • However, these considerations did not apply in this case because appellant's victim alleged physical force in the sexual assault. 
  • The court noted that even if it did fashion a new "mistake of fact" rule for sexual assault, as requested by appellant, his trial counsel would not have been remiss in failing to predict this change in the law, or in failing to argue it before the trial court. 
  • Therefore, the court affirmed appellant's conviction and sentence.

CONCLUSION
The court affirmed appellant's conviction of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault, and related offenses and affirmed his sentence because his trial counsel was not ineffective for failing to urge a jury instruction on mistake of fact, which was traditionally not available in sexual assault cases.

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