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Locke v. Rose

    Brief Fact Summary. Appellant was charged with a crime against nature for forcibly committing cunnilingus on a female victim.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Cunnilingus is not within the scope of Tennessee’s “crimes against nature” statute.

    Facts. Appellant Locke was charged and convicted of committing a “crime against nature” when he entered the apartment of neighbor and forced her into two episodes of cunnilingus. The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the conviction in Locke v. State, rejecting Appellant’s claim that the “crimes against nature” statute was unconstitutionally vague. Appellant then filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the district court. That court rejected the Appellant’s claim and Appellant timely appealed.

    Issue. In light of prior state court opinions, is cunnilingus within the scope of Tennessee’s “crimes against nature” statute?

    Held. No, the judgment of the District Court is reversed and the case remanded to the district court.
    Sodomy at common law included only copulation per anum.

    The Stephens case only hinted that Tennessee “probably” accepts the broader view of crimes against nature (including all acts of unnatural copulation).

    Even had the Court expressly adopted the broader view, such view proscribing “carnal copulation by human beings with each other against nature, including all acts of unnatural copulation” would still not preclude men of common intelligence from necessarily guessing at its meaning and differing at its application as applied to cunnilingus.


    Discussion. The Court reasons that past case law has differed in its definitions of “crimes against nature” so that men of common intelligence must necessarily guess as to whether it includes cunnilingus.


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