Tuesday, October 24, 2006
C.A. Says Pregnancy Resulting From Rape Is ‘Great Bodily Injury’
By TINA BAY, Staff Writer
A trial judge properly instructed a jury that pregnancy resulting from rape constitutes great bodily injury, this district’s Court of Appeal ruled yesterday, upholding a Ventura County man’s convictions for an assault on a teenage girl.
Upholding a special jury instruction by Ventura Superior Court Judge James Cloninger, Div. Six affirmed Ruben David Ayala’s convictions for forcible rape with great bodily injury and unlawful intercourse with a minor under the age of 16. with special findings that he inflicted great bodily injury.
Cloninger based the instruction on People v. Sargent (1978) 86 Cal.App.3d 148, explaining:
“Major physical changes take place at the time of pregnancy. It involves significant bodily impairment primarily affecting a woman’s health and well being. Pregnancy can have one of three results—childbirth, abortion, or miscarriage. Childbirth is an agonizing experience. An abortion by whatever method used constitutes a severe intrusion into a woman’s body. A miscarriage speaks for itself.”
Ayala, sentenced to 13 years in prison, did not object to the instruction at trial. But even if he had, he would have lost the argument on the merits, Justice Kenneth Yegan wrote in an unpublished opinion
Yegan said that “[w]aiver aside, the jury was correctly instructed that pregnancy resulting from rape constitutes great bodily injury.” Accordingly, he added, defense counsel was not ineffective in failing to object to the special instruction.
The justice noted there was no reason to depart from Sargent even though state Supreme Court review is pending in the case of People v. Cross (2005) 134 Cal. App.4th 550, on the issue of whether a rape victim’s pregnancy and abortion constitutes great bodily injury.
Prosecutors said Ayala raped Jennifer B., as she was identified, in August 2002, a day after then then-27-year-old defendant met the then-14-year-old victim through a “party line”—a telephonically accessed social space similar to an Internet chat room. In their initial conversations, they exchanged contact information and lied about their ages, Ayala representing himself as being 18 and the girl saying she was 15.
The next day, Ayala picked Jennifer B. up and drove her to the beach where despite her protests and physical resistance, he pushed her down and forcibly penetrated her. He then suggested she get a 72-hour pill and dropped her off at home, making a demeaning remark as he drove away, prosecutors argued.
Evidence showed that as a result of the rape, Jennifer B., who had been a virgin before Ayala’s sexual attack, suffered from vaginal bleeding and bruises and later endured painful and difficult delivery of a child that DNA tests showed Ayala almost certainly fathered.
Pointing to the physical consequences of the rape, Yegan said any alleged instructional error as to bodily injury was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.
Presiding Justice Arthur Gilbert and Justice Steven Z. Perren concurred in the opinion.
The case is People v. Ayala, B185259.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company