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Iowa Supreme Court Holds Inmate Assault Statute Only Requires Bodily Fluids from Another for Conviction

The Supreme Court of Iowa held that for a prisoner to be convicted of “inmate assault” in violation of Iowa Code § 708.3B (2005), there need only be proof that the prisoner caused a corrections employee to come into contact with another person’s blood, seminal fluid, urine or feces. The court rejected the argument that such bodily fluids had to come from the prisoner who was charged with assaulting the employee.

Before the court was the appeal of Jody Nolan McCullah, who was challenging his four-count conviction for assault under § 708.3B. McCullah was at the Polk County Jail on April 20, 2007 when he snuck up behind a jail guard named Harper, striking her on the side of the head. He then began pushing buttons on the control panel in the second floor control room.

An altercation ensued between McCullah and jail guards Harper, Rodish, Bracelin, Purscell and Vandepol. All of the guards except Vandepol were exposed to blood from cuts received by McCallah and Rodish. At trial, the district court denied McCullah’s motion for acquittal which argued there was no proof that the blood the guards came into contact with came from him.

The state Supreme Court held that “a conviction under section 708.3B requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt that an employee came into contact with another person’s blood, seminal fluid, urine, or feces as a result of an assault by an inmate.” Since Harper, Bracelin and Purscell came into contact with another person’s bodily fluids – even if was blood from another guard – McCullah’s convictions were affirmed.

McCullah’s conviction for assault against Rodish, however, was vacated because there was no proof that the blood on Rodish was from anyone other than himself. See: State of Iowa v. McCullah, 787 N.W.2d 90 (Iowa 2010).

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Related legal case

State of Iowa v. McCullah