Jasinto Duran Meneses isn't happy that Orange County Superior Court Judge Richard M. King gave him a 15-years-to-life prison sentence.
His crime, Meneses said, wasn't as disturbing as King or county prosecutors alleged. Besides, he had been intoxicated and he hadn't intended to inflict great bodily harm on his own niece, he argued.
But it was days after Christmas 2007 when the 12-year-old girl inadvertently turned him on and he couldn't resist his sexual impulses.
One night in the house he and his wife and kids shared with his niece and her parents, Meneses threw the girl to a bathroom floor, stripped her, covered her mouth, fondled her and then had intercourse, according to court records.
Like many sex crimes victims the little girl was afraid to tell her parents, but several months after the assault she learned that she was pregnant with her uncle's child. (She gave birth painfully.)
Police arrested Meneses, a jury convicted the 27-year-old of lewd conduct with a minor and, in 2009, Judge King punished him.
Meneses appealed, claiming that he had not caused his niece great bodily harm–the pregnancy–and that King had rendered “cruel and unusual punishment” that didn't fit his crimes. He noted that if the girl hadn't become pregnant he was exposed to a prison sentence as low as three years or as much as eight.
“That a pregnancy might not be the usual type of bodily injury does not change the analysis,” wrote Santa Ana-based state appellate Justice William Ryaarsdam. “It was still bodily injury to the victim and she will be burdened with that for the remainder of her life . . . In sum, although the sentence is significant, so was the crime.”
Justice WIlliam Bedsworth wrote a concurring opinion to underscored his belief that it's “unseemly and unnecessary” that California currently “requires the victim of a rape to come to court and try to persuade us the physical suffering of her childbirth of abortion was sufficient to meet the statutory standard [for great bodily injury].”
Bedsworth added, “Someone–be it the legislature or our supreme court–has to address the unutterable cruelty of forcing the revictimization of these women. And the longer we delay, the more suffering we force upon them.”
Justice Richard Aronson also wrote a concurring opinion that stated Meneses had caused great bodily harm, but he disagreed with Bedsworth's view that all future juries should be instructed that a sexual assault that impregnates the victim constitutes great bodily injury.”
According to Aronson, that proposal is “well-intentioned” but would violate a defendant's “basic constitutional rights.”
“Due process requires the state to prove beyond a reasonable doubt every fact necessary to constitute a crime,” he wrote. “And a defendant has the constitutional right to have a jury make this determination . . . As is often the case, the constitution restrains our own policy preferences. Whether to make all criminally imposed pregnancies subject to a great bodily injury enhancement should be a legislative decision.”
–R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly