MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Minnesota Supreme Court ruling this week reversed the conviction of a man charged with criminal sexual conduct. The decision is now helping bring urgency to update a decades-old state law.
Court documents say Francois Khalil met a woman outside a Dinkytown bar in Minneapolis in 2017 who’d had five vodka shots and a prescription drug pill.READ MORE: State Patrol: No Arrests After Racers Found In Lowry Hill Tunnel Overnight
They went back to his house and the woman testified she blacked out and woke up to him having sex with her.
A person is guilty of rape in Minnesota if the victim is mentally incapacitated, and a Hennepin County jury convicted Khalil of third-degree criminal sexual conduct.
But the Court decided unanimously that the victim wasn’t mentally incapacitated because she had voluntarily gotten drunk.
Justice Paul Thissen wrote the law is clear that the intoxicant must be administered involuntarily for the victim to be considered mentally incapacitated, saying “We apply [the Legislature’s intended meaning] and not what we may wish the law was or what we think the law should be.”
Khalil will get a new trial.
“We were expecting this decision, so it wasn’t a big surprise, but it still was really painful,” said Lindsey Port, a DFL State Senator who represents parts of Burnsville, Savage and Lakeville.
Port is a rape survivor. She says other survivors and advocates have known for a long time Minnesota’s rape laws were problematic.
Port even describes them as dangerous.READ MORE: Police Search For The Stolen Valor Of Lakeville Vietnam Veteran
“It does make it seem like if you’ve had any alcohol or any substance of any kind, that you couldn’t get a conviction, that you couldn’t be raped, which is just obviously not the case,” she said.
Marion O’Neill, a Republican State Representative who represents Buffalo, Monticello and Maple Lake, says the Court’s ruling demonstrates how terrible the legal definition is of ‘mentally incapacitated.’
O’Neill is one of 35 authors on a bipartisan House bill to expand that definition. Being too intoxicated to give consent, regardless of how a victim became intoxicated, would be considered mentally incapacitated.
“A lot of rape victims would actually get justice,” O’Neill said.
The Senate’s introduced a version of the bill too.
“We are working to change this law,” Port said.
Will Walker, Khalil’s lawyer, said Sunday there’s no way the justices would unanimously agree like this unless the case against his client was fatally flawed.
In a statement, the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office said it “understands the reasoning behind the Minnesota Supreme Court’s decision. As a result, the office is working with the Minnesota Legislature to pass a bill introduced by Rep. Kelly Moller of Shoreview that would change the wording in the law that would protect victims of sexual assault who had been drinking and be in line with the court’s decision.”MORE NEWS: Minneapolis Police Seek Person Of Interest In Wednesday's Homicide
State Attorney General Keith Ellison’s office gave WCCO a statement that said in part, “Though it is not the AG’s case, we encourage the legislature to take up this issue and modify the statutes to close the loophole identified by the Supreme Court. Our laws should make clear that sexual violence against women is never acceptable and has severe penalties.”