Commonwealth v. Poindexter, &c.(end date: 1909)
The following is a summary of the Kentucky Court of Appeals opinion Commonwealth v. Poindexter, 133 Ky. 720, 118 S.W. 943 (Ky. 1909). ~ In 1909, C. H. Poindexter and Frank Moore, two African American men of the age of consent, were charged with the crime of sodomy in the Caldwell County Circuit Court. The men pled guilty, were found guilty by the jury, and were sentenced to two years each in the penitentiary. But after the verdict was given, Poindexter and Moore’s counsel requested a new trial. The state had brought charges against them under an unnamed Kentucky statute that made sodomy a felony, but the statute did not define what acts constituted the crime. The men had engaged in what would today be termed oral sex, and their attorneys had discovered new information that oral sex may not be included under the common law definition of the crime of sodomy. The circuit court set aside the verdict and granted the men a new trial. Poindexter and Moore's counsel then submitted a motion to dismiss the indictment and the court sustained on the grounds that the acts charged did not constitute sodomy. The court dismissed the case and the Commonwealth appealed to the Kentucky Court of Appeals. To determine the definition of sodomy, the appellate court relied on a highly regarded legal treatise from the period, Bishop's New Criminal Law, which stated that “[s]odomy is a carnal copulation by human beings with each other against nature, or with a beast” and that “penetration of the mouth is not sodomy” (2 Bishop’s New Criminal Law §1191, §1194). Based on the treatise and other common law sources, the Kentucky Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the lower court, ruling that the Caldwell Circuit Court properly dismissed the indictment. Oral sex was not sodomy. C. H. Poindexter and Frank Moore were free of all charges.
The case of C. H. Poindexter and Frank Moore is one of the earliest known cases of African Americans challenging the Kentucky sodomy law. How it was discovered that the two men were having oral sex is not included in the appellate court opinion, nor is it known who notified the authorities. Nothing more is known about the lives of C. H. Poindexter and Frank Moore at this time.
This entry was edited by Tina M. Brooks, Librarian at the University of Kentucky Law Library.