State Supreme Court Overturns Rule Classifying Statutory Rape Victims As Accomplices

Monday, August 12, 2013

In a unanimous opinion, the Tennessee Supreme Court refused to apply an antiquated rule classifying minor victims of sex offenses as accomplices in the crime and eliminated the requirement that testimony of the victim be corroborated by other independent evidence. The ruling upholds the aggravated statutory rape conviction of DeWayne Collier of Shelby County.

On Sept. 5, 2008, a 14-year-old female high school student who was scheduled to perform with the marching band left school, went to a friend’s house, telephoned the 42-year-old Collier, and arranged to meet with him. The victim spent the night and the following day at Collier’s Shelby County residence. During this time, they engaged in sexual intercourse several times. The next evening, Collier drove the victim to her home, dropping her off at the end of her driveway so that her parents would not detect him.

The police, who had been alerted by the victim’s parents that she was missing, questioned the victim and took her to a local hospital for examination. Semen was found on the victim’s jeans, but medical experts were unable to determine when the semen had been deposited or whether it was that of Collier. Although the victim admitted at trial that she had a relationship with Collier, no other medical evidence confirmed that Collier had engaged in sex with the victim.

At the conclusion of the evidence, the jury found Collier guilty of aggravated statutory rape based primarily upon the testimony of the victim. On appeal, Collier argued that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction because of several prior court rulings that the testimony of a statutory rape victim had to be corroborated by other proof. The Court of Criminal Appeals found that the victim was an accomplice to the crime, criticized but followed the rule requiring corroboration, yet affirmed the conviction, finding that her testimony was substantiated by other evidence.

The Supreme Court granted review to address the history of the corroboration requirement, beginning with an 1895 case involving a charge of incest, and ruled that the testimony of the victim of a statutory rape, if accredited by the jury, need not be supported by corroborative proof. By so holding, the Court adopted the majority rule among the states, observing that there was “no defensible reason” to classify minor victims of sex crimes as accomplices or to characterize their testimony as “inherently unreliable.”

To read the State of Tennessee v. DeWayne Collier Opinion authored by Chief Justice Gary R. Wade, visit TNCourts.gov.


Michelle Consiglio-Young Joins Courts As Legislative Liaison, Assistant General Counsel

   Michelle Consiglio-Young has been named legislative liaison and assistant general counsel for the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts. In this role, she will be drafting and tracking legislation for the judiciary, following other proposed legislation, assisting members of the General Assembly with information about Tennessee courts, informing members of the ... (click for more)

Supreme Court Affirms Disability Award For Employee With High-Frequency Hearing Loss

The Tennessee Supreme Court has ruled that an employee is entitled to the full amount of workers’ compensation benefits awarded to him by a trial court. In  2009, Orville Lambdin retired from Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company where he had worked as a tire builder for over 35 years. He later sought workers’ compensation benefits based upon his loss of hearing. At trial, ... (click for more)

Chance Loftis Set To Be Freed From Jail After Jury Finds Him Guilty Of Only Misdemeanor Charge

Chance Loftis is set to be freed from jail on Monday after a Criminal Court jury on Friday afternoon found him guilty of only a minor charge. Instead of murder in the death of 46-year-old Donald Rogers, the jury in the courtroom of Judge Don Poole found him guilty of the lesser charge of reckless endangerment. He was found not guilty of aggravated animal cruelty in the beating ... (click for more)

1 Dies In House Fire In Rhea County

Rhea County Fire Department officials said one person died in an early-morning house fire on Saturday. The call came at about 6:30 a.m. The brick residence is on Fisher Road. S tate arson investigators were on their way. (click for more)

It's Time To Insure Tennessee - And Response

Tennessee has a problem.  What is the value of saving the lives of 1,000 Tennesseans each year? That is exactly what can be expected if 176,000 Tennesseans gain health insurance through Insure Tennessee. A New England Journal of Medicine study showed that expansion of Medicaid was associated with a 6% reduction in yearly mortality for people in the 34-65 age group. Statistically, ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: What About The Ashes?

I attended my fifth funeral in the month of January the other day and, while I wish a lot of my friends would hang around a little longer, I was amused by the conversation in the pew before the service began. The question was “ … then what do you do with the ashes?” More and more people are being cremated and asking their loved ones to scatter their ashes -- more properly called ... (click for more)