Monday, March 28, 2011
Man Who Impregnated Girl, 12, Caused ‘Great Bodily Injury’—C.A.
Ruling Unanimous, but Panel Produces Three Separate Opinions
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Fourth District Court of Appeal has upheld an Orange County man’s conviction and sentence for inflicting great bodily injury based upon his impregnation of a 12-year-old girl through unlawful sexual intercourse.
Div. Three on Thursday concluded that the victim’s pregnancy significantly exacerbated her injury from Jasinto Meneses’s lewd conduct and served as a valid basis for an increased criminal sentence. The ruling was unanimous, but drew separate opinions from all three members of the panel.
Meneses challenged the 15-year-to-life sentence imposed by Orange Superior Court Judge Richard M. King. The great bodily injury finding was based solely on the victim’s pregnancy.
The defense contended the prosecution did not prove great bodily injury because, other than the pregnancy, there was no evidence the victim suffered any physical harm other than the lewd act itself and the pregnancy was not burdensome. Meneses also claimed the victim had not realized she was pregnant until a few months before the baby was born, and the delivery involved no extended hospital stay or unusual procedures.
Since the sentence can be as little as three years in prison for a person convicted of the same crime in which the victim does not become pregnant, Meneses maintained his sentence constituted cruel and unusual punishment.
In his opinion for the appellate court, Justice William F. Rylaarsdam said Meneses’ argument failed to acknowledge “the trauma of the pregnancy” for the victim.
“She endured the self-evident trauma and suffering that accompanies a pregnancy until she delivered at age 13,” the justice wrote. Even though the odds were slim that the victim would become pregnant and pregnancy is not “the usual type of bodily injury,” Rylaarsdam explained “it was still bodily injury to the victim and she will be burdened with that for the remainder of her life.”
Justice William W. Bedsworth joined Rylaarsdam’s opinion, but also wrote separately to express his view that pregnancy should “always impose on the victim a sufficient impact to meet the great bodily injury standard” and that a fact-specific analysis should not be necessary.
“It is hard for me to imagine how we can require the victim of a rape to come to court and try to persuade us the physical suffering of her childbirth or abortion was sufficient to meet the statutory standard,” Bedsworth said, insisting that “as long as we keep writing opinions that base a finding of great bodily injury upon the relative size of the victim vis-a-vis the baby she delivered, or testimony about how painful the miscarriage was, or how her 19th hour of labor felt, that is what we will have.”
He called on the Legislature or Supreme Court to “address the unutterable cruelty of forcing the revictimization of these women” by requiring proof of great bodily injury and end this “heartless spectacle that is both unseemly and unnecessary.”
Justice Richard M. Aronson also concurred, but wrote separately regarding the propriety of changing the law regarding great bodily injury by judicial fiat.
Aronson said the courts “may not declare as a matter of law that all pregnancies constitute great bodily injury” without violating a defendant’s right to due process and trial by jury.
Any such change, he said, “should come from the Legislature, not the courts.”
The case is People v. Meneses, 11 S.O.S. 1561.
Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company