The Montana Supreme Court recently overturned the conviction of a Missoula man who had been found guilty of sexual intercourse without consent and he may get a new trial.
Bryce Caleb Hamernick was convicted in Missoula County District Court in 2021 of raping a subordinate employee at the Missoula restaurant where they both worked while the two were alone. The woman reported Hamernick had raped her to the Missoula Police Department in July 2018.
Hamernick and his attorneys later appealed the conviction. They argued the jury was instructed that to reach a guilty verdict, they needed to find that Hamernick was aware of the high probability the victim did not consent to sexual intercourse. Hamernick argued the instruction improperly lowered the prosecution’s burden of proof by relieving it from proving that he knew his sexual conduct was without consent.
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Thus, the Supreme Court had to consider whether the District Court erred in its instructions to the jury, voting 4-3 in late December to reverse the lower court’s decision.
Justice Jim Rice wrote the majority opinion.