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Kentucky Court Upholds Guard's Conviction for Raping Female Prisoners

On June 17, 2016, the Court of Appeals of Kentucky affirmed the conviction of a Carter County deputy sheriff in a case where he forced two female prisoners to perform oral sex on him.

Following an investigation by the Kentucky State Police, Carter County deputy sheriff Earl E. Buckler was indicted for two counts of third degree sodomy based on complaints from two female jail prisoners that Buckler had "subjected" them into performing oral sex on him. One incident occurred when Buckler was returning one of the ladies back from court to the jail, and the other took place in an elevator at the Carter County Justice Center. Buckler pled guilty to the charges, but only after he lost his argument in the trial court that the statute

KRS 510.090(1)(e) -- did not apply to him. After Buckler's motion to dismiss was denied, he entered a conditional guilty plea to one count and reserved his right to appeal.

The issue on appeal was whether as a deputy sheriff, the express provisions of the statute -- which prohibits a "jailer, or an employee, contractor, vendor, or volunteer of the Department of Corrections" from subjecting incarcerated individuals to "deviate sexual intercourse" -- applied to Buckler. Defense counsel had argued that as a deputy sheriff, Buckler's employment status did not meet the plain language of the statute and therefore he could not be guilty of the offense as a matter of law.

The Kentucky Supreme Court affirmed the conviction, holding that under Kentucky law a trial judge had only limited powers to dismiss an indictment, and Buckler's case did not present one of those situations. "The proper time for an evaluation of the sufficiency of the evidence is following the conclusion of the Commonwealth's proof by means of a motion for a directed verdict," the court wrote. "As a result, the trial court did not err by denying Buckler's motion to dismiss the indictment."

The appellate court said that a proper course for Buckler to have taken if he wished the court to dismiss for insufficiency of the evidence would have been after a trial, but since he pled guilty he could not then assert this defense on appeal. See: Buckler v. Commonwealth of Kentucky, No. 2015-CA-000511-MR (CA Ky.), June 17, 2016.

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Related legal case

Buckler v. Commonwealth of Kentucky