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Consent not defense in battery case

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Because consent is not a defense to battery when a deadly weapon is used, the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed a man's convictions of felony and misdemeanor battery on his girlfriend after branding her with a hot knife and hitting her with a cord.

In Morgan K. Govan v. State of Indiana, No. 02A03-0902-CR-55, Morgan Govan argued there was insufficient evidence to support his convictions because the charges arose out of sadomasochistic sexual practices to which his girlfriend consented. After she lied to Govan about cheating on him, she allowed him to tie her up and testified that she wanted him to hurt her. After touching her with a hot knife and hitting her on the back with an extension cord, she locked herself in the closet and tried to kill herself. After she failed, she told Govan she needed to get her paycheck. He drove her to work where she called police and stayed inside until Govan was in custody.

Both Govan and his girlfriend admitted they liked to do kinky things during sex, and he argued he branded and hit her because she asked him to.

The Court of Appeals cited Jaske v. State, 539 N.E.2d 14, 18 (Ind. 1989), in which the high court held a victim's consent is not a defense to battery, and Helton v. State, 624 N.E.2d 499, 515 (Ind. Ct. App. 1993), when the appellate court found there could be some instances where consent could be a defense to the charge of battery. The ruling noted that consent is ordinarily a defense to the charge of battery in cases involving sexual overtones; it also listed the circumstances in which consent couldn't be defense to battery, including when the use of a deadly weapon is employed.

Even though the instant case has sexual overtones, because Govan used a deadly weapon, his girlfriend's consent isn't a defense, wrote Judge Nancy Vaidik. The jury was free to conclude based on the evidence that the girlfriend didn't consent to being beaten with the extension cord or branded with a hot knife, so the appellate court declined to determine whether Govan's actions fell under any of the other Helton categories.

"In such a highly charged domestic case as this, the jury is in the best position to make credibility determinations. We will neither reweigh evidence nor assess witness credibility," she wrote.

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