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MacDonald v. Moose, No. 11-7427

Decided: March 12, 2013

William Scott MacDonald challenged the district’s court denial of his writ of habeas corpus. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the district court’s judgment and remand for an award of habeas corpus. The court held that MacDonald had been prosecuted under a facially unconstitutional statute.

On the evening of September 23, 2004, MacDonald met with a seventeen year old girl. At one point during the evening, MacDonald asked the girl to perform a sexual favor on him. MacDonald also asked the girl to have sex. The girl refused both requests, and she then drove MacDonald home. Nearly three months later, MacDonald accused the girl of sexually assaulting him. Detectives interviewed the girl, and she gave a very different version of events. The detectives credited the girl’s version of events and charged MacDonald, with, among other things, felony criminal solicitation. At trial, McDonald asked the Virginia circuit court to dismiss the solicitation offense on the ground that the predicate felony —an anti-sodomy provision — was unconstitutional. MacDonald argued that under Lawrence v. Texas, all state statutes that prohibit “consensual sodomy between individuals with the capacity to consent” are facially invalid. On July 25, 2005, the circuit court denied MacDonald’s motion to dismiss. The following day, the court found MacDonald guilty of solicitation (via the anti-sodomy provision). Thereafter, MacDonald appealed his conviction through the Virginia state court system, but he was unsuccessful. On September 16, 2009, MacDonald filed a habeas corpus petition in the Eastern District of Virginia. The court denied his petition, and MacDonald filed a timely appeal to the Fourth Circuit.

On appeal, MacDonald argued that Lawrence v. Texas compelled the facial invalidation of the anti-sodomy provision under the Fourteenth Amendment. The Fourth Circuit agreed. The court stated, “[W]e adhere to the Supreme Court’s holding in Lawrence by concluding that the anti-sodomy provision, prohibiting sodomy between two persons without any qualification, is facially unconstitutional.” Therefore, the court reversed the district court’s judgment and remanded for an award of habeas corpus relief.

Full Opinion

-Graham Mitchell