State v. Alston

310 N.C. 399, 312 S.E.2d 470 (1984)

Quick Summary

Quick Summary Icon

Edward Alston (defendant) faced charges stemming from an alleged non-consensual sexual encounter with Cottie Brown (plaintiff), with whom he previously had a consensual sexual relationship.

The central issue was whether there was sufficient evidence to support the convictions for kidnapping and second-degree rape.

The Supreme Court of North Carolina concluded that the evidence presented did not substantiate either charge, leading to a reversal of the lower court’s decision.

Facts of the Case

Facts of the case Icon

Cottie Brown (plaintiff) and Edward Alston (defendant) had been engaged in a consensual sexual relationship for about six months. During this period, their relationship was tumultuous, with instances of conflict and violence, leading Brown to occasionally leave their shared apartment to stay with her mother. Despite these issues, Brown would return to Alston and resume sexual relations, sometimes under duress or out of fear.

On May 15, 1981, after being physically assaulted by Alston over a financial dispute, Brown moved out permanently. A month later, on June 15, Alston confronted Brown at her school, forcibly took her to a friend’s house, and despite her verbal refusal, engaged in sexual intercourse with her. Brown reported the incident to the police on the same day.

Procedural Posture and History

History Icon
  1. Edward Alston was charged and convicted of kidnapping and second-degree rape in the Superior Court of Durham County.
  2. The defendant appealed the decision to the Supreme Court of North Carolina.

I.R.A.C. Format


Issue Icon

Whether the evidence was sufficient to support Edward Alston’s convictions for kidnapping and second-degree rape.

Rule of Law

Rule Icon

In order to convict an individual of kidnapping, the State must prove that the defendant had the intent to commit a felony, such as rape, at the time of the removal. Furthermore, for a conviction of second-degree rape, it must be established that the intercourse was by force and against the will of the victim.

Reasoning and Analysis

Reasoning Icon

The Supreme Court of North Carolina reviewed whether substantial evidence existed to support Alston’s convictions for kidnapping and second-degree rape. The Court found that although there was evidence of force and intimidation by Alston when he initially approached Brown at her school, there was no substantial evidence indicating that he intended to rape her at the time of removal.

The Court further noted that Brown’s behavior prior to expressly ending their relationship did not signal non-consent to Alston, considering their history of consensual sexual encounters. Regarding the second-degree rape charge, while Brown’s testimony provided substantial evidence of non-consent, there was insufficient evidence of actual or constructive force related to the act of sexual intercourse on June 15.


Conclusion Icon

The Supreme Court of North Carolina reversed the Court of Appeals’ decision and remanded the case for entry of directed verdicts in favor of Edward Alston for both kidnapping and second-degree rape charges due to insufficient evidence.

Key Takeaways

Takeaway Icon
  1. A defendant’s prior consensual sexual relationship with the victim does not preclude a charge of rape if consent for the specific act is withdrawn.
  2. Physical resistance is not necessary to prove lack of consent in a rape case; unequivocal verbal refusal can suffice.
  3. For a kidnapping conviction predicated on facilitating a felony such as rape, the State must show that the defendant had the specific intent to commit that felony at the time of removal.
  4. The presence of fear in a victim based on past experiences does not establish force in a rape charge unless it is directly related to overcoming resistance to the specific act of intercourse in question.

Relevant FAQs of this case

What constitutes sufficient evidence of non-consent in a rape case?

Evidence of non-consent in a rape case can range from clear verbal refusal to signs of physical resistance. Evidence may also include the victim’s state of fear or incapacity to give consent. Jurisdictions differ on the requirement for force or threat of force.

  • For example: If during a party someone initiates sexual activity with an individual who is clearly intoxicated beyond the capacity to consent, this can be deemed as non-consensual even without verbal or physical resistance.

How does past relationship history impact the assessment of consent?

While past consensual relationships may provide context, they do not justify assumptions of ongoing consent. Each encounter must be assessed independently for affirmative, conscious consent.

  • For example: Two individuals who have previously dated and been intimate cannot presume consent in future interactions; explicit agreement must be established each time.

What must be proven to establish the intent element in a kidnapping case where the alleged purpose is to commit another felony?

To establish intent in a kidnapping case related to another felony like rape, it must be demonstrated that the kidnapper had the specific intention to commit the additional crime at the time of the abduction.

  • For example: If someone abducts an acquaintance with the intent to demand ransom but no evidence suggests the intent for further criminal acts like assault at that moment, then the additional felony charge would lack support.


Last updated

Was this case brief helpful?

More Case Briefs in Criminal Law