CBS News had an interesting article about the Iowa case involving marital relations when spouse is incompetent.  Henry and Donna Lou Rayhons are married but last year, Donna was moved into a nursing home, suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s. According to Henry’s family, this was decided by her daughters from a previous marriage. Conflict developed over how to care for Donna Lou Rayhons, culminating in a meeting in which staff told Henry Rayhons that his wife was no longer mentally capable of legally consenting to have sex.

State prosecutors said Henry Rayhons – a long-serving state lawmaker – ignored that message. He stood trial for sexually assaulting his wife, who died last August. The charges were filed days after she died.  Rayhons was charged with sexual abuse in the third degree and could have served up to 10 years in prison if convicted.  Experts could not think of another rape case that happened because a previously consenting spouse could no longer legally acquiesce.

The crux of the case was the question of Donna Lou Rayhons’ ability to consent. Iowa law defines an act as sexual abuse in the third degree if the two parties are not living together as husband and wife and if one person “is suffering from a mental defect or incapacity which precludes giving consent.”

The jury acquitted Rayhons after about 13 hours of deliberation over three days, jurors on Wednesday found Henry Rayhons, 78, not guilty of third-degree sexual abuse of his wife, Donna Lou Rayhons. Henry Rayhons testified in his own defense that on the night in question the couple held hands, prayed and kissed, but had no sexual contact.

“The truth finally came out,” Rayhons said after the verdict, noting that he believed his wife was “with him” throughout the trial.

 Jurors weighed testimony from family members, doctors and investigators throughout the trial in Hancock County Court. Rayhons’ defense attorney said a guilty verdict could raise fears that any interaction between spouses could be interpreted as sexual abuse. Prosecutors said a not guilty verdict would put others with dementia at risk of being harmed.

During the trial, nursing home staffers testified that Donna Lou Rayhons’ roommate talked about the couple having sex behind a curtain, but in testimony the roommate said she was unsure whether the noises she heard that day were sexual in nature.

Prosecutors said investigators found DNA evidence on sheets and a quilt in his wife’s room. They also played a recorded interview with an investigator that showed that Rayhons initially said he and his wife never had sex at the nursing home, but later said they had a few times, and possibly briefly on the day in question.

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