Henry Rayhons "Not Guilty"

Apr 22, 2015

A jury in northern Iowa has found a former state representative "not guilty" of sexually assaulting his late wife. Prosecutors alleged that Henry Rayhons of Garner had sex with his wife Donna, who wasn’t capable of consent due to her advanced Alzheimer’s disease. 

The jury took nearly two days to deliberate. This verdict ends a trial that has attracted international attention and raised complicated questions about the nature of consent for cognitively impaired adults.

In a video posted by the Mason City Globe Gazette, a tearful Rayhons addressed the press minutes after the verdict was announced.

"I have a terrific family and I want to thank them so much for being with me...they were by my side the whole time," Rayhons says. "The truth finally came out." 

Legal experts say this case demonstrates the need for a closer examination of how the law views people with dementia.

"This case demonstrates that we need better research  on the science associated with dementia and capacity," says Katherine Pearson of Penn State's Dickinson Law. "I think this case also just demonstrates so clearly how we need better social care policies that affect the whole family...so we can hope this type of case can never happen again."

Some wondered why prosecutors went forward with the trial. If Rayhons had been convicted, the 78-year-old would have faced up to 10 years in prison.

“Our office prosecuted this case based on a complaint, thorough law enforcement investigation, and Iowa law," says the Iowa Attorney General's office in a written statement. "The jury made its decision, which we respect.”