Thursday, March 29, 2012

Court rules sex contact law unconstitutional

Posted By on Thu, Mar 29, 2012 at 2:28 PM

In a 4-3 decision, the State Supreme Court dismissed the sexual assault convictions of former Elkins teacher David Paschal, 38, and said a state law that criminalizes sexual contact between teachers and students who are over 18 years old is unconstitutional. "Regardless of how we feel about Paschal’s conduct, which could correctly be referred to as reprehensible, we cannot abandon our duty to uphold the rule of law when a case presents distasteful facts," Chief Justice Jim Hannah wrote in the majority opinion.

Paschal was convicted of four counts of second-degree sexual assault and one count of bribing a witness at a jury trial last year. He was sentenced serve 30 years in prison. One of Paschal's former students testified at that trial that she engaged in a months-long consensual sexual relationship with Paschal when she was 18 and still a student at Elkins.

Read the opinion here.

Hannah, Associate Justice Robert L. Brown Justice Paul E. Danielson, Associate Justice Courtney Hudson Goodson and Associate Justice Donald L. Corbin made up the majority. Associate Justice Karen Baker, Associate Justice Jim Gunter and Justice Paul E. Danielson Associate Justice Robert L. Brown dissented.

Writing for the majority about the state's case, Hannah argued:

The State misapprehends the issue when it asserts that there is no fundamental right for a public high school teacher to have sex with an eighteen-year-old high school student enrolled in that school. The issue is whether the statute, as applied in this case, infringes on Paschal’s fundamental right to engage in private, consensual, noncommercial acts of sexual intimacy with an adult. We hold that it does.

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