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Gilbert v. Commonwealth - 838 S.W.2d 376 (Ky. 1991)


In order to determine exactly what did or did not happen at any particular stage in the sequence, it is necessary that the jury see the entire picture. Evidence that provides necessary perspective is competent. Juries do not have to perform their function of fact-finding in a vacuum.


Codefendants Arletha Rose Gilbert and Johnny Gilbert, a stepfather and mother, were tried in Kentucky state court for sexual offenses involving their three teenage daughters. The stepfather was convicted of wanton endangerment, rape, criminal attempt to commit rape, and use of a minor in a sexual performance. The mother was convicted of wanton endangerment by complicity, criminal attempt to commit rape, and use of a minor in a sexual performance by complicity. Each was sentenced to 10 years in prison. At trial, the stepfather admitted that he forced the girls to take all their clothes off as a form of discipline. He also admitted that he ripped their clothes off and cut their bras off with a knife when they refused to remove their clothing. According to the girls' testimony, their stepfather stared at their naked bodies until he became tired of looking. An appellate court affirmed the convictions. Both the stepfather and mother appealed, claiming that they were immune from prosecution under Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 531.310, which prohibited the use of a minor in a sexual performance. They contended that their actions fell within the family exception of the statute. According to the stepfather and the mother, their teenage girls were forced to completely disrobe as a form of discipline. The stepfather also questioned the introduction of evidence that he gave his stepdaughters marijuana and alcohol and that he forced them to watch sexually explicit movies while he and his wife engaged in sexual activities. He alleged that this evidence was improperly introduced during trial to show "lustful inclination".


Were codefendants immune from prosecution and did the trial court err in admitting certain evidence at trial?




The state supreme court concluded that the convictions were proper and the family exception did not apply. The court found that forcing the girls to disrobe and ripping off their clothes met § 531.310's statutory element of "employs, consents to, authorizes or induces a minor." The court also held that this type of parental discipline could not be considered normal family behavior under any standard. The court also determined that the appellate court correctly analyzed the introduction of the evidence. It explianed that the evidence was not presented to show "lustful inclination" but to indicate a pattern of conduct and motive for the behavior of codefendants and the introduction of evidence was necessary for the jury to see the entire picture and evidence that provided the necessary perspective was competent.

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