Pierson v. State

In Pierson v. State, 956 P.2d 1119 (Wyo. 1998), Pierson and CG, the minor involved, met when CG was fifteen and Pierson was thirty-six and married. While CG was still fifteen, Pierson told her that he was "falling in love" with her, and a physical relationship gradually grew. The couple then began to discuss the possibility of marriage. At the age of sixteen, after being forbidden contact with Pierson, CG had sexual intercourse with Pierson. Additional sexual interludes followed. Immediately upon CG's parents becoming aware of the sexual relationship between her and Pierson, CG and her family moved to Montana. Pierson and CG then absconded together and married in Oregon when CG was seventeen. Sometime later, the couple began residing in New Jersey with Pierson's relatives. Eventually, Pierson was charged with taking indecent liberties with CG. During the trial, CG testified that through the entire relationship she was dominated by and under the control of Pierson. In contrast, Pierson introduced the testimony of several witnesses indicating CG invited Pierson's attentions and appeared to be a mature and equal participant during all times they were together. Pierson, at 1121-23. Pierson was convicted of one count of indecent liberties with a minor after a three-day trial. On appeal, Pierson asserted that the instructions given to the jury prevented consideration of the facts essential to his defense. Pierson argued that because a sixteen year old may legally consent to sexual intercourse under 6-2-304 (third degree sexual assault), CG's consent had a direct bearing on the relative "indecency" of their activity. Pierson, at 1123-24. In addressing this claim, the Pierson court noted that the legislature's express protection of minors under the age of eighteen from indecent liberties makes it apparent that the legislature did not intend to cast a minor of sixteen or seventeen years of age to the mercy of society at large. Thus, the Court determined that the legal age of consent of sixteen years of age designated by 6-2-304 did not resolve the question whether the victim, in fact, gave informed consent to the conduct charged, nor did it resolve the question whether the conduct, even with consent, was indecent or immoral. Pierson, at 1125.