Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Another Example of Atrociously Vague Reporting

This is a perfect example of why I have a page with notes to journalists. From the great US state of Indiana comes this report at, with a headline reading...
Seymour Man Sentenced to 2 Years in Incest Case
Now, as we've noted many times, "incest" in legal and news talk can mean consensual sex between middle-aged adults who aren't even blood relatives. Or, it could mean some adult brutally abusing a very young child. Those are very different things.
A 43-year-old Jackson County man who recently pleaded guilty to incest received a two-year prison term in Jackson Circuit Court.

Delious Morris of Seymour entered a guilty plea on April 14 to three Class C felony counts of incest.

After accepting that plea, Jackson Circuit Judge Richard Poynter sentenced Morris to five years on each of those counts and suspended three years of each sentence. The sentences are to be served concurrently. Morris also received four days credit and four days credit time.
Here's what I found in Indiana law, the wording of which is set to change at the end of the month (but it doesn't look like the effect will change, just the labels)...
IC 35-46-1-3 Version a
     Note: This version of section effective until 7-1-2014. See also following version of this section, effective 7-1-2014.
    Sec. 3. (a) A person eighteen (18) years of age or older who engages in sexual intercourse or deviate sexual conduct with another person, when the person knows that the other person is related to the person biologically as a parent, child, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, aunt, uncle, niece, or nephew, commits incest, a Class C felony. However, the offense is a Class B felony if the other person is less than sixteen (16) years of age.

Elsewhere you can find that the age of consent in Indiana is 16, except that that someone has to be 18 to consent to sex with someone who is a guardian of some sort. Since the convictions were to "Class C", we know the supposed victim is at least 16, and could be close in age to the defendant. Since no other charges were listed, such as assault or charges relating to someone being a minor, can we infer that the sex was consensual?

Two years is a absurdly short sentence for sexual assault. If the sex was consensual, prosecution at all was absurd. There are very few circumstances of "incest" where two years in prison is appropriate.

It is possible to have clarification without revealing the identity of the supposed victim, such as who contacted police. Was it the supposed victim? A neighbor? A teacher? And what did the supposed victim say to police?

It makes a difference. Either Morris is a dangerous man who has forced himself on another person, or he's been unjustly prosecuted and imprisoned.
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