Gene Johnson, Associated Press

SEATTLE (AP) — The Washington Supreme Court says the state cannot require rape defendants to prove that an alleged victim consented to escape conviction.

In a 6-3 decision Thursday, the justices reversed what they described as the court’s “incorrect and harmful” earlier rulings.

The earlier rulings said that when a defendant charged with using “forcible compulsion” claimed the contact was consensual, it was up to the defendant to prove that by a preponderance of the evidence.

The majority said those rulings wrongly interpreted U.S. Supreme Court precedent. They said prosecutors must prove every element of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt, and that it’s a violation of a defendant’s due process rights to require proof of consent. Instead, the defendant only needs to create reasonable doubt as to whether there was consent.

The ruling came in the case of a juvenile boy who was convicted of second-degree rape in King County. The justices awarded him a new trial.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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