It’s not as bad as it sounds, but it’s still pretty bad. The man in question, Julio Morales, had sex with a woman (“Jane Doe”) while she was unconscious, so he should have been convicted on the grounds of non-consent. But in addition to making that argument, the prosecution also contended that he had tricked Doe into having sex with him by pretending to be her boyfriend, who had been lying next to her when she fell asleep.
But Morales’ lawyer also claimed that his client hadn’t done anything to trick Jane into thinking she was with her boyfriend, and that California law only explicitly makes it a crime to trick someone into having sex if she believes she’s having sex with her husband. That’s technically true of the law. The judges said that because they couldn’t be sure whether the jury had convicted Morales based on correct theory (that she was unconscious) rather than the incorrect one (he pretended to be someone else), the whole case had to be retried.
Doesn’t it seem like the appeals court could have removed some of the legal weight from this out-of-date law by refusing to apply it so strictly in this case? I’m a huge fan of due process, but this seems a little excessive.