Hung Jury in Porn Prosecution; very bad news for antiporn advocates
Hung Jury In Ira Isaacs Obscenity Case—UPDATED
Government isn’t sure whether to retry Isaacs, who says he is broke and can no longer afford the expert witnesses he will need to call if tried again.
Posted Mar 06th, 2012 03:34 PM by Mark Kernes
LOS ANGELES—In a development that should make waves throughout both the adult entertainment community and religious pro-censorship groups, the Los Angeles jury which spent three days last week listening to testimony as to why online retailer/movie producer Ira Isaacs should be convicted of obscenity, has failed to reach a verdict on the several charges lodged against Isaacs, and has been dismissed from service by Judge George H. King.
The possibility that there might be trouble reaching a verdict became evident yesterday when, after less than three hours of deliberation, one juror reportedly sent a note to Judge King charging that one of the other jurors had said that he/she did not believe in the obscenity laws—a position that caused Judge King to bring the jury back into the courtroom, where he explained that no matter what the jurors’ personal feelings were about the laws themselves, it was their sworn duty to follow the law as he had given it to them in his jury charge. He then sent the jury back to continue its deliberations, which lasted until 2 p.m. Monday afternoon.
The jury resumed its deliberations at 8 a.m. today, and it was shortly thereafter that the jurors sent another note indicating that they could not (and would not be able to) agree on a unanimous verdict on any of the charges involving the four movies that were the subject of the U.S. Department of Justice’s most recent five-count indictment: Mako’s First Time Scat, Hollywood Scat Amateurs 7 and 10, and Japanese Doggie 3 Way.
It was at that point that Judge King, according to Isaacs, discussed with the attorneys—Damon King and Michael Grant for the Justice Department’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), and Roger Jon Diamond for the defendant—the idea of bringing the jury back into the courtroom and allowing each side to take ten minutes to essentially deliver further closing arguments.
“So the judge called them in; they said they were having problems, bla-bla-bla, so the judge talked with us, not in front of the jury, and said, ‘Look, why don’t we see if we can do anything to help them’,” Isaacs reported. “And one of the things was maybe review the evidence, or maybe the attorneys could give a ten-minute each little closing, a little speech on why he’s guilty or not guilty. So this was done.”
While it is not uncommon for a judge to require a trial’s court reporter to read back portions of the testimony for a deliberating jury if they request it, it is nearly unheard-of for a judge to allow attorneys to redo their summations.
But according to Isaacs, who spoke to AVN just before 2 p.m., the jury had made it clear to Judge King that further deliberations would not be fruitful.
“Two of the jurors held out,” Isaacs said, after having talked to one of the jurors after Judge King had dismissed them. “And not only two; it was two of the women. We were allowed to talk to them outside the courtroom after it was all over, and one talked to us. She basically said that her and another juror thought that this was art, serious art, and had artistic value, and should not be found obscene.”
“One of the two holdouts first thought I was guilty,” he added. “When they first went in there, they probably take like a straw poll: ‘Who thinks he’s guilty?’ They start that way, and it was 11 to 1 with this one woman still holding out. But after a while, I think the other woman then changed her mind and said, ‘You know, I do think it has artistic value and there’s reasonable doubt that they proved their case.’ So it was two women who saved my butt, at least temporarily.”
There was apparently also some question raised by the prosecution regarding whether one of the jurors had lied when answering the questionnaire filled out by all of the prospective jurors, in response to question 33, “Are you or any member of your immediate family involved in the business of distributing or producing movies or videos?”
“She said ‘no’,” Isaacs told AVN, “but it turned out that her husband was involved in producing shock/horror type movies. But her husband is dead, and the question was asked in the present tense. But the judge decided that since the question was asked in the present, she was telling the truth, because her husband died like 10 years ago. But the fact that they [prosecutors] researched her through the public records is both chilling and saddening. To investigate a sitting juror is, to me, kind of upsetting.”
It is unclear where the case will go from here.
“So the judge says to the prosecution, ‘What are you going to do?’ I mean, it’s up to them,” Isaacs reported. “They said, ‘Well, we’re probably going to proceed with another prosecution. I can’t tell you 100 percent because I’ve got to talk to my people, but more than likely, we’re going to proceed, and we’d like to set a trial date right now.’”
At that point, Judge King set April 24 as the date for Isaacs’ third trial.
But while this trial has given Isaacs some idea of what evidence he will face in the retrial, he told AVN that he is now practically bankrupt and can’t afford to hire the experts that will be needed to rebut the government’s claims.
“I have no money, and these experts are expensive,” he stated. “I’ve been loaned some money already, but I’m absolutely broke now; I can hardly pay my rent right now.”
“I’d like to send out a plea to the adult industry to help, because this fight is for them,” he added. “I just need some help. I always figured I wouldn’t try to ask anybody for money, because this is my responsibility, and in the five years this has been going on, I never asked anybody, anywhere for any legal defense funds. Now I’m saying, ‘I need you guys’ help if you think this is important. You don’t have to give me money; all I need is to get these [expert] witnesses paid for.’ If I lose, it’s just going to embolden everybody, but hopefully somebody will step up with a lot of money and help me out with this, because it’s coming up in about six weeks.”
Those who wish to donate money or other help to Isaacs’ defense can email AVN, which will pass along such offers to Isaacs.
It is likely that the Isaacs case will be a major topic of discussion among the First Amendment Lawyers’ Association, and one member emailed a comment to AVN.
“I consider a hung jury a major victory,” said First Amendment attorney H. Louis Sirkin. “Isaacs is a stand-up guy, and Roger did a wonderful job. They are to be congratulated.”
Isaacs said that he was gratified by the support that coverage of the trial had generated.