In Bolivia, North Carolina, former teacher Leah Gayle Shipman, 42, was spared a criminal trial on statutory rape of a student on a rather novel ground: she married the student. Shipman married Johnnie Ray Ison, 17, after divorcing her husband of 19 years. Ison married with the consent of his mother.
Shipman divorced her husband six days before marrying Ison. Under North Carolina law, a spouse cannot be compelled to testify against his or her partner in a criminal case.
Shipman was originally charged with sexual offense with a student, statutory rape and taking indecent liberties with a student.
Shipman pleaded guilty last month to resisting an officer and was given a 30-day suspended jail sentence.
In 2009, the North Carolina Supreme Court limited the privilege to exclude conversations in public — even when no one else was present to hear the conversation. However, in this case, the prosecutors concluded that the key evidence supporting the charges could not be admitted. That is an interesting twist since presumably those statements were made before they were married but would have to be attested to on the stand. Presumably however she will have to stay married for the duration of the statute of limitations on the crime since a divorce could still result in her former students being called as a witness. In North Carolina, there is no statute of limitations on felonies so I expect that there will be a lot of pressure by one party to make this marriage work.