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The Washington State Supreme Court today overturned the second-degree rape conviction of a Spokane man, saying the trial judge violated the man’s right to a fair trial by including a jury instruction that the defense didn’t want.
In the 6-3 decision, the state’s high court ordered a new trial for Brandon S. Coristine, who was 22 when he was convicted in January 2010 of second-degree rape following an incident in 2009.
Spokane County prosecutors charged Coristine under the argument that the victim was too intoxicated to give consent for sex, which the defense argued was consensual.
At the end of the trial, Superior Court Judge Michael Price agreed with the prosecutor to give an instruction to the jury stating that the defendant reasonably believed that the woman gave consent. The instruction further stated that it was the burden on Coristine to prove that the woman gave consent for sex by a preponderance of the evidence.
But in the 6-3 decision, the majority of justices ruled that offering the jury instruction violated Coristine’s right to a fair trial. They reversed a decision by the Division III Court of Appeals and sent the case back to Spokane County Superior Court for a new trial.