Tamara Rice Lave has a thoughtful post at Prawfsblawg about affirmative consent standards in sexual assault cases. She contends that application of such standards amount to a burden shift to the defendant. From her post:
The case I am referring to is Mock v University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and it was decided on August 4. Corey Mock was alleged to have had non-consensual sex with a female student. At the hearing, the Administrative Law Judge found that UTC had not carried its burden of proof and dismissed the charges. The complainant then spoke with the Chancellor, who petitioned for reconsideration. Although the ALJ did not change any findings of fact, she changed her overall conclusion. Mock appealed to the Chancellor who upheld the order and expelled Mock. Mock then appealed to the Chancery Court.
In her opinion, Chancellor Carol L. McCoy wrote, “Under the ALJ’s Revised Initial Order, a person accused of violating SOC7 must overcome the presumption inherent in the charge that the violation has been established. Mere denial of the accusation is insufficient. The accused must prove the converse of what is taken as true and credible, i.e., the complainant’s statement that no consent was given. He must come forward with poof of an affirmative verbal response that is credible in an environment in which there are seldom, if any, witnesses to any activity which requires exposing each party’s most private body parts. Absent the tape recording of a verbal consent or other independent means to demonstrate that consent was given, the ability of an accused to prove the complaining party’s consent strains credulity and is illusory.”
After finding that the UTC Chancellor “improperly shifted the burden of proof and imposed an untenable standard upon Mr. Mock to disprove the accusation that he forcibly assaulted Ms. Morris,” Chancellor McCoy reinstated the original order of the ALJ and reversed the decision of the UTC Chancellor.
I applaud Chancellor McCoy’s decision and hope that other judges will also see the problem with affirmative consent.
Although have my (policy) doubts about affirmative consent standards, I’m not persuaded by the argument that affirmative consent standards switch the burden of proof to the defendant.