Garnett v. State

Citation332 Md. 571,632 A.2d 797
Decision Date01 September 1993
Docket NumberNo. 3,3
PartiesRaymond Lennard GARNETT v. STATE of Maryland
CourtCourt of Appeals of Maryland

Michael R. Braudes, Asst. Public Defender (Stephen E. Harris, Public Defender) both on brief, Baltimore, for appellant.

Ann N. Bosse, Asst. Atty. Gen. (J. Joseph Curran, Jr., Atty. Gen.), both on brief, Baltimore, for appellee.


MURPHY, Chief Judge.

Maryland's "statutory rape" law prohibiting sexual intercourse with an underage person is codified in Maryland Code (1957, 1992 Repl.Vol.) Art. 27, § 463, which reads in full:

"Second degree rape.

(a) What constitutes.--A person is guilty of rape in the second degree if the person engages in vaginal intercourse with another person:

(1) By force or threat of force against the will and without the consent of the other person; or

(2) Who is mentally defective, mentally incapacitated, or physically helpless, and the person performing the act knows or should reasonably know the other person is mentally defective, mentally incapacitated, or physically helpless; or (3) Who is under 14 years of age and the person performing the act is at least four years older than the victim.

(b) Penalty.--Any person violating the provisions of this section is guilty of a felony and upon conviction is subject to imprisonment for a period of not more than 20 years."

Subsection (a)(3) represents the current version of a statutory provision dating back to the first comprehensive codification of the criminal law by the Legislature in 1809. 1 Now we consider whether under the present statute, the State must prove that a defendant knew the complaining witness was younger than 14 and, in a related question, whether it was error at trial to exclude evidence that he had been told, and believed, that she was 16 years old.


Raymond Lennard Garnett is a young retarded man. At the time of the incident in question he was 20 years old. He has an I.Q. of 52. His guidance counselor from the Montgomery County public school system, Cynthia Parker, described him as a mildly retarded person who read on the third-grade level, did arithmetic on the 5th-grade level, and interacted with others socially at school at the level of someone 11 or 12 years of age. Ms. Parker added that Raymond attended special education classes and for at least one period of time was educated at home when he was afraid to return to school due to his classmates' taunting. Because he could not understand the duties of the jobs given him, he failed to complete vocational assignments; he sometimes lost his way to work. As Raymond was unable to pass any of the State's functional tests required for graduation, he received only a certificate of attendance rather than a high-school diploma.

In November or December 1990, a friend introduced Raymond to Erica Frazier, then aged 13; the two subsequently talked occasionally by telephone. On February 28, 1991, Raymond, apparently wishing to call for a ride home, approached the girl's house at about nine o'clock in the evening. Erica opened her bedroom window, through which Raymond entered; he testified that "she just told me to get a ladder and climb up her window." The two talked, and later engaged in sexual intercourse. Raymond left at about 4:30 a.m. the following morning. On November 19, 1991, Erica gave birth to a baby, of which Raymond is the biological father.

Raymond was tried before the Circuit Court for Montgomery County (Miller, J.) on one count of second degree rape under § 463(a)(3) proscribing sexual intercourse between a person under 14 and another at least four years older than the complainant. At trial, the defense twice proffered evidence to the effect that Erica herself and her friends had previously told Raymond that she was 16 years old, and that he had acted with that belief. The trial court excluded such evidence as immaterial, explaining:

"Under 463, the only two requirements as relate to this case are that there was vaginal intercourse, [and] that ... Ms. Frazier was under 14 years of age and that ... Mr. Garnett was at least four years older than she.

"In the Court's opinion, consent is no defense to this charge. The victim's representation as to her age and the defendant's belief, if it existed, that she was not under age, what amounts to what otherwise might be termed a good faith defense, is in fact no defense to what amount[s] to statutory rape.

"It is in the Court's opinion a strict liability offense."

The court found Raymond guilty. It sentenced him to a term of five years in prison, suspended the sentence and imposed five years of probation, and ordered that he pay restitution to Erica and the Frazier family. Raymond noted an appeal; we granted certiorari prior to intermediate appellate review by the Court of Special Appeals to consider the important issue presented in the case, 329 Md. 601, 620 A.2d 940.


In 1975 the Legislative Council of the General Assembly established the Special Committee on Rape and Related Offenses, which proposed a complete revision of Maryland law pertaining to rape and other sex crimes. See generally J. William Pitcher, Rape and Other Sexual Offense Law Reform in Maryland 1976-1977, 7 U.Balt.L.Rev. 151 (1977). Based on the Committee's work, Senate Bill 358 was introduced, amended, and enacted on May 17, 1976, as ch. 573 of the Acts of 1976. In part, it repealed the common law crime of rape, the former statutory prohibition of carnal knowledge of underage girls, and other related crimes and replaced them with the current array of criminal laws delineating two degrees of rape and four degrees of sexual offenses. See the 1976 Report of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on S.B. 358, at 1-5 and Code, Art. 27, §§ 462-464C; see also Richard P. Gilbert & Charles E. Moylan, Jr., Maryland Criminal Law: Practice and Procedure 65-66, 68-81 (1983).

The new legislation reformulated the former statutory rape law by introducing the element of a four-year age difference between the accused and the underage complainant. Report of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, at 2. As originally enacted by ch. 573 of the Acts of 1976, sexual intercourse with a person under 14 by an actor more than four years older was classified as rape in the first degree, and carried a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. The Legislature, by ch. 292 of the Acts of 1977, reduced the crime to rape in the second degree carrying a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. These reforms of 1976 and 1977 created the law now embodied in § 463(a)(3).

Section 463(a)(3) does not expressly set forth a requirement that the accused have acted with a criminal state of mind, or mens rea. The State insists that the statute, by design, defines a strict liability offense, and that its essential elements were met in the instant case when Raymond, age 20, engaged in vaginal intercourse with Erica, a girl under 14 and more than 4 years his junior. Raymond replies that the criminal law exists to assess and punish morally culpable behavior. He says such culpability was absent here. He asks us either to engraft onto subsection (a)(3) an implicit mens rea requirement, or to recognize an affirmative defense of reasonable mistake as to the complainant's age. Raymond argues that it is unjust, under the circumstances of this case which led him to think his conduct lawful, to brand him a felon and rapist.


Raymond asserts that the events of this case were inconsistent with the criminal sexual exploitation of a minor by an adult. As earlier observed, Raymond entered Erica's bedroom at the girl's invitation; she directed him to use a ladder to reach her window. They engaged voluntarily in sexual intercourse. They remained together in the room for more than seven hours before Raymond departed at dawn. With an I.Q. of 52, Raymond functioned at approximately the same level as the 13-year-old Erica; he was mentally an adolescent in an adult's body. Arguably, had Raymond's chronological age, 20, matched his socio-intellectual age, about 12, he and Erica would have fallen well within the four-year age difference obviating a violation of the statute, and Raymond would not have been charged with any crime at all.

The precise legal issue here rests on Raymond's unsuccessful efforts to introduce into evidence testimony that Erica and her friends had told him she was 16 years old, the age of consent to sexual relations, and that he believed them. Thus the trial court did not permit him to raise a defense of reasonable mistake of Erica's age, by which defense Raymond would have asserted that he acted innocently without a criminal design. At common law, a crime occurred only upon the concurrence of an individual's act and his guilty state of mind. Dawkins v. State, 313 Md. 638, 643, 547 A.2d 1041 (1988). In this regard, it is well understood that generally there are two components of every crime, the actus reus or guilty act and the mens rea or the guilty mind or mental state accompanying a forbidden act. The requirement that an accused have acted with a culpable mental state is an axiom of criminal jurisprudence. Writing for the United States Supreme Court, Justice Robert Jackson observed:

"The contention that an injury can amount to a crime only when inflicted by intention is no provincial or transient notion. It is as universal and persistent in mature systems of law as belief in freedom of the human will and a consequent ability and duty of the normal individual to choose between good and evil.

* * * * * *

"Crime as a compound concept, generally constituted only from a concurrence of an evil-meaning mind with an evil-doing hand, was congenial to an intense individualism and took deep and early root in American soil."

Morissette v. United States, 342 U.S. 246, 250-252, 72 S.Ct. 240, 243-244, 96 L.Ed. 288 (1952).


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