The Minnesota Supreme Court has ordered a new trial for a man convicted of raping a woman who was drunk. The justices ruled that the state’s definition of “mentally incapacitated” does not include voluntarily inebriated victims.
Hennepin County prosecutors say that in May of 2017, Francois Khalil encountered a woman outside a Dinkytown bar who’d just consumed five shots of vodka and a prescription narcotic. Khalil invited her and a friend to a party.
Court documents say Khalil and two other men drove them to a house in Minneapolis, where there was no party. The woman, identified only by her initials, testified that she blacked out on the couch and later woke up to find Khalil raping her.
◾️In 2019 Khalil was convicted of “third-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a victim who was impaired.”
◾️Khalil is currently serving 5 years at a state prison.
◾️The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled the state’s legal definition of “mentally incapacitated” only applies if a victim was given drugs or alcohol against their will.
◾️Writing for a unanimous 6-0 court, Justice Paul Thissen said because the meaning of the statute is clear “we apply that meaning and not what we may wish the law was or what we think the law should be.”
According to Minnesota law, “‘mentally incapacitated’ means that a person under the influence of alcohol, a narcotic, anesthetic or any other substance, administered to that person without the person’s agreement, lacks the judgment to give a reasoned consent to sexual contact or sexual penetration.”
Based on its interpretation of the law, the Minnesota Supreme Court held that “the text, structure and punctuation of the legislature’s one-sentence definition of mentally incapacitated supports Khalil’s interpretation of the statute—namely, that a person is mentally incapacitated only if under the influence of alcohol administered to the person without the person’s agreement.”
In its opinion, the state supreme court reasoned that Khalil’s conduct would be considered fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct—a gross misdemeanor, rather than a felony—under the law.