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September 4, 2012

Ninth Circuit opinion provides distinct perspective on "he said/she said" regarding prisoner rape allegations

The Ninth Circuit released an interesting opinion today in Wood v. Beauclair, No. 10-35300 (9th Cir. Sept. 4, 2012) (available here), which gets started this way:

Plaintiff-Appellant Lance Conway Wood is a state prisoner in Idaho. Wood allegedly engaged in a romantic, but not sexual, relationship with a female prison guard, Sandra de Martin. Wood alleges that both during and after the relationship, Martin perpetrated sexual acts on him without his consent.  He filed a civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging constitutional violations of the First, Fourth, and Eighth Amendments.

The district court granted summary judgment to defendants on Wood’s Eighth Amendment claims finding that the romantic relationship between Wood and Martin was consensual and, therefore, Wood implicitly consented to Martin’s sexual conduct.  Having consented, the district court held, Wood could not state an Eighth Amendment claim.  Wood appeals.

The appeal involves sexual abuse of prisoners by those supposed to protect them, the prison guards.  Unfortunately, this is a serious problem in our prisons today but when prisoners seek redress for their abuse, often the state argues it has no liability because the prisoner consented to the sexual conduct.  As we explain more fully below, because of the enormous power imbalance between prisoners and prison guards, labeling a prisoner’s decision to engage in sexual conduct in prison as “consent” is a dubious proposition.

September 4, 2012 at 01:46 PM | Permalink


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interesting. but why is the bigger question not answered.

Isn't it in most state and federal law that prisoner's CANOT legally consent to sex! PERIOD!

Posted by: rodsmith | Sep 4, 2012 4:31:43 PM

It is true in NY, rodsmith.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Sep 5, 2012 8:56:14 AM

Because for the purposes of federal section 1983 law it doesn't matter what state law says on the topic?

I know it's a somewhat different context but SCOTUS has certainly been trying to get that idea across to the lower courts when it comes to habeas actions. Of course, when it comes to habeas the 9th has also been one of the lower courts most resistant to getting the message.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Sep 5, 2012 11:46:38 AM

This is just sad. There is not the first post calling out the fucktards of the ninth court for their criminal action in allowing this FEMALE Guard to RAPE a prisoner and do jack shit about it!

Just of course shows just how american's feel about what happens in a prison!

Posted by: rodsmith | Sep 10, 2012 1:27:05 AM

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