LAWRENCE, KS — A defense lawyer for a Kansas man on trial for sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl tested a novel defense against statutory rape charges, but failed to convince the judge.
I'll say this for Cooper Overstreet: when they zig, he zags, and he's not afraid to take the road never traveled.
The Kansas lawyer is representing Jordan Ross, a 21-year-old Topeka man who stands accused of raping a 15-year-old girl at a party when he was 19. Overstreet planned to use a low-down defense befitting his plebian client and the base, currish crime: she wanted it.
The prosecutors, anticipating this lowball approach, added an alternative charge of "aggravated indecent liberties with a child," for which consent is irrelevant. Check.
Undaunted, Overstreet made his next move: she was really 16 at the time, regardless of the date on her birth certificate. Therefore, no statutory rape occurred.
Overstreet cited a state law, part and parcel of Kansas abortion law, that says that life begins at fertilization. That would make the victim nine months older than her last birthday. In this case, sweet sixteen. Old enough to give it up to a 19-year-old lech at a party with zero legal repercussions.
Back to the issue of consent. Your move, Kansas.
Prosecutors, faced with this inventive and (to me, at least) persuasive defense, scrambled into lawyer-ball mode, splitting hairs— a favorite activity of lawyers the world over. They cited a Kansas Court of Appeals opinion that essentially said that the "life begins at conception" bit only applies to "public health codes, not to criminal codes." Further, applying the "life begins at conception" law to criminal law would "introduce an unacceptable uncertainty into the criminal law."
Translation: politicians disguised as state legislators passed an absurd bit of law for political reasons without duly considering its ramifications. Or, as the Court of Appeals put it: "courts must construe statutes to avoid unreasonable or absurd results."
I'm fairly certain that legislators are supposed to pass reasonable, workable laws in the first place, and that judges are not supposed to play the "what they meant to say" game with them, but I hear where the Court of Appeals is coming from: once the Crazy Cat's out of the Hat, someone has to stop the little bugger.
The judge, not wanting to see every piece of Kansas trash locked up for banging a 15-year-old file appeals simultaneously, agreed.
Faced with this new zig, Overstreet asked for a delay to plan his next zag, stating that he "needed time to change his defense plan."
I can't wait to see what he comes up with next.
Ross' trial has been rescheduled for January 3rd. Meanwhile, he is free on a $20k bond.