MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. - The Minnesota Supreme Court overturned a sexual assault conviction last week, causing national outrage. According to court documents, Francois Khalil met a woman outside a Minneapolis bar in 2017. She had voluntarily taken five vodka shots and a prescription drug pill. The woman testified that she blacked out and woke up to Francois assaulting her.
A Hennepin County jury convicted Khalil. In Minnesota, a person is guilty of rape if the victim was mentally incapacitated. But as it turns out, there's a loophole in the law. The Minnesota Supreme Court voted unanimously that the victim wasn't mentally incapacitated because she had voluntarily gotten drunk. Khalil will be getting a new trial.
Now, pressure is on lawmakers to pass a bill closing this loophole. State Rep. Kelly Moller's bill H.F. 707 was already in action before the court ruling was made. One of its purposes is to modify and clarify criminal sexual conduct provisions.
State Rep. Liz Boldon of Rochester is supporting the bill as it moves through the House. "I was not aware of the intricacies of this issue, and so I was a bit surprised and like many others, was sort of outraged. Like, how could this happen? How could this be?" She explains this is not a problem in the courts, who are interpreting the law as it stands. It's a problem with the law itself. "We know that victims who are intoxicated beyond their ability to give consent deserve justice and that is why we need to pass this legislation to make this possible. This is a failing not necessarily of the court, but a gap in the statute and one that the legislature has in its power to fix, and we need to do so expeditiously," she explains.
The Senate has introduced a similar bill as well. Changing the language of the law has support on both sides of the aisle.
"I believe that everyone deserves justice. A person who is intoxicated to the point that they are not able to give consent should get justice as well and currently the way the statute reads, we're seeing that that isn't happening," says Boldon.
The Hennepin County Attorney's Office and Minnesota Attorney General's Office are expressing support for the Minnesota legislature to close the loophole.
Khalil’s lawyer said Sunday there’s no way the justices would unanimously agree unless the case against his client was fatally flawed.