Tampa porn case is a trial for jurors, too

And you think you had a tough week.

Imagine the plight of 13 ordinary, unsuspecting citizens who had the misfortune to be called to federal court and picked for jury duty.

Unlike most of us who find that summons in the mailbox, their biggest hurdle this week was not trying to stay awake while some pinstriped lawyer droned on about the finer points of the law.

These folks had to watch porn.

They had to watch hours of raw, violent, confrontational, mind-numbing porn, much of it featuring women dressed like young girls and treated in ways you just don't want to know.

Sparing the details, hard core does not begin to describe what played out on the big screen facing 12 jurors and one alternate in that somber, wood-paneled courtroom in Tampa. The judge looked on, expressionless.

The films in question are the cinematic vision of Hollywood porn producer Paul F. Little, also known as the misogynistic Max Hardcore, who is charged with using a computer to sell obscenity and delivering obscenity through the mail.

Little, by the way, also stars in his films, which makes for quite the juxtaposition between the blond man in the neat suit at the defense table and the guy up on the screen getting very involved in the aforementioned unmentionable acts.

Yes, there was even a blooper reel.

As they watched, jurors squirmed or looked away. They looked uncomfortable. They looked grim. But they paid attention, and for this they deserve combat pay. On Friday, when a film ended and a live, fully clothed, witness was called to the stand, you could almost feel the courtroom sigh in relief.

(You know, possibly the only person in town who had a tougher week than these jurors was the guy who hired the $100-an-hour naked maid. His wife came home from vacation — look how clean the house is, honey! — to find $40,000 in jewelry missing from their bedroom. His story even made the Washington Post.)

But back to our courtroom.

Me, I generally tend to be in the let-weirdos-do-what-they-want-with-other-consenting-adult-weirdos camp, since the government making those kinds of value judgements makes me nervous.

Max Hardcore's work playing out on that screen before the jury is decidedly not nice.

But being disgusting, or worse, is not itself a crime.

So is it legally obscene?

When they finally (and with great relief, I'm guessing) hit that jury room to talk about what they've seen, they'll mull over things like "community standards," whatever it is that defines our "community." (All I can say on that one is, we sure seem to have a lot of adult businesses around here not lacking for cars in the parking lots.)

They'll likely talk about whether what they saw appeals to "prurient," as in lascivious or lustful, interests. (Am I missing something, or isn't that pretty much the point?)

And do Max's masterpieces have serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value?

Now that's an interesting one.

Will these jurors be able to get past the extreme ick factor of those films to consider the real issues? If they've made it this far in putting the "duty" in jury duty, I'm betting they will.

Tampa porn case is a trial for jurors, too 05/30/08 [Last modified: Monday, June 2, 2008 4:17pm]

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