Last month, James Benjamin from Benjamin & Aaronson, P.A., out of Fort Lauderdale,
Florida and H. Louis Sirkin from Sirken, Kinsley & Nazzarine out of Cincinnati, Ohio traveled to
Forrest City, Arkansas to defend owners of an adult bookstore charged with disseminating
obscene material. The material in question could be summarized as anal and double penetration
movies. Forrest City for its part is located forty miles west of Memphis, Tennessee.
Forrest City is one of those small, sleepy towns in the rural south where everyone knows
everyone and everyone has grown up with everyone. It is certainly not a tourist destination and
to go out to eat means going to McDonalds or to the sub shop. Yet, for all of its small town
southern charm and way of life, it does have an adult bookstore. This adult bookstore, by all
accounts, happens to be quite popular with at least some of the population.
For whatever reason, whether it was to make a name for himself or because he truly
believes that these materials were obscene, the local prosecutor brought charges against the
owners and managers of the adult bookstore. The films that were chosen, according to testimony
at the trial, were not chosen for any specific reason, but rather were chosen at random. Yet, the
prosecution truly wanted to win. In fact, they brought in as an advisor, a United States
Department of Justice Attorney from Washington who specializes in obscenity prosecution. This
person sat with the local prosecutor throughout the trial.
The trial lasted a full week. The local Judge almost uniformly ruled on every motion in
favor of the local prosecutor. The common defense called comparables, where to show
community standards, other materials that are locally available or brought in for comparison was
disallowed by the trial Judge. Even as to selecting the jurors, the defense was thwarted in asking
questions as to whether any of the potential jurors knew the local figure in town who was on the
anti-pornography crusade and if they had any relation to him or feelings about him. Later on in
the trial, that same anti-pornography zealot somehow found himself sitting in the jurors box
talking with some of the Court personnel, while the jurors deliberated just outside of that same
In order to prove community standards and that these movies did not violate the standard
of the community, Benjamin and Sirkin came up with some novel and creative ideas. When the
prosecutor was able to elicit that the store grossed over a million dollars in a certain time period,
Benjamin and Sirkin turned the argument around and used those figures to show that obviously
the community accepted this material or how else can you explain over a million dollars in sales.
They argued that nothing showed better than the amount of sales that people in Forrest City truly
accepted this material and it was within community standards.
When a copy of Adult Video News came into evidence, Benjamin and Sirkin were able to
point out to the jurors that in fact every year there is an award given out in Las Vegas for best
anal and for best double penetration movies. They argued to the jurors that this magazine, the
internet, television and every other media goes to Forrest City just like every other city in the
United States. They argued that Forrest City was no different than other cities and that this type
of material has now become standard in the United States.
The jury deliberated for hours and close to midnight Arkansas time, they came back with
a verdict. To Benjamin, Sirkin and their clients’ delight, the jury unanimously voted that the
materials were not obscene and found everybody not guilty. Twelve people in Forrest City,
Arkansas proved that Americans as a whole tolerant and accepting of what other people wish to
watch and enjoy in the privacy of their own homes. These twelve people proved as did over a
million dollars in purchases from the bookstore, that the First Amendment is alive and well
throughout the United States.
James Benjamin and Louis Sirkin proved that quality, good lawyering trumps home court
and home town advantage. They proved that skill triumphs over any and all odds. They proved
that if double penetration and anal sex scenes are not obscene in Forrest City, Arkansas that
probably these types of movies will not be found obscene anywhere if defended properly.