Split COA reverses sex conviction on ‘Romeo and Juliet’ grounds

August 22, 2016

The majority of a Court of Appeals panel reversed the conviction of a young man who claimed he was wrongly denied an opportunity to present Indiana’s “Romeo and Juliet” law as an affirmative defense to a charge of sexual misconduct with a minor.

Larry R. Beedy was 17 when he began having sex with a girl who was three years and nine months younger. Before his conviction of the Level 5 felony in this case, he had a prior juvenile adjudication for what would have been sexual misconduct with a minor if committed by an adult because of his relationship with the same girl, A.W., who testified their relationship was consensual and both desired to be married.

As a matter of first impression, the court faced the question of whether someone with a prior adjudication for a sex offense may present the “Romeo and Juliet” statute at I.C. 35-42-4-9(e) as an affirmative defense to a subsequent charge. The statute generally allows an affirmative defense to minor-sex charges for someone who is less than four years older than the victim and who is in an ongoing or dating relationship with the victim.

“Having determined that the statutory language is unambiguous, we need not address the State’s various arguments construing the statute contrary to its plain meaning. Further, to the extent the State’s arguments are based on policy considerations, this is not the proper forum. We therefore conclude that Beedy established his entitlement to the defense found in I.C. § 35-42-4-9(e), and consequently, his conviction cannot stand,” Judge Robert Altice wrote in the majority opinion joined by Judge L. Mark Bailey. “We reverse and remand this cause with instructions to vacate Beedy’s sexual misconduct with a minor conviction.”

Dissenting Judge Cale Bradford wrote that Beedy’s prior adjudication should preclude his affirmative defense under the statute because he had sex with a victim legally unable to consent. He would affirm the conviction.

“Beedy should have learned his lesson before, that even true love would not be an excuse to, in essence, recommit the same unlawful act. I can think of no reason why it should matter that it was the same child he was charged with victimizing here,” Bradford wrote in Larry R. Beedy, Jr. v. State of Indiana, 48A02-1510-CR-1703.