Last month, we had the wonderful opportunity of being co-counsel with H. Louis Sirkin and Jennifer Kinsley from Cincinnati, Ohio and Jeffrey Douglas from Santa Monica, California. Our clients were Paul Little a/k/a Max Hardcore and Max World Entertainment, Inc. The trial was an obscenity prosecution of Mr. Little and Max World Entertainment, Inc. for five video clips on the Internet and five DVDs sent to Tampa. The trial was held in Tampa in front of United States District Court Judge Susan Bucklew.
Unfortunately, the verdict did not go as we had hoped that it would. After one and a half days of deliberations and the jury sending a note back that they were hopelessly deadlocked, the jury ultimately returned a verdict of guilty on all counts. The material was not the ordinary run of the mill pornography, but rather consisted of anal and vaginal fisting; peeing in women’s mouths; gagging on cocks until there is vomiting; blow jobs with vomit still on cocks along with role playing pretending that the actresses were under the age of 16.
Regardless of the content of the clips and DVDs, obviously the verdict was quite disappointing. What was not disappointing however was the camaraderie between the attorneys involved in the case, the cooperation and the team effort. Very rarely does one get the opportunity to be part of a defense team with such talent and yet no egos needing to be assuaged or catered to.
A Motion for New Trial has already been filed in the case. While the verdict was being read, we noticed that one of the jurors was crying continually. Later, that juror along with two others showed up at our hotel having been informed by the press where we were staying, and poured out their hearts to us. They explained from the get go that there were nine people in favor of guilt and the three of them in favor of not guilty. They further explained how they tried to hold out, but eventually got beaten down by the shear numbers of the opposition. Lastly, we were informed that one of the hold out jurors had been fired in the middle of her deliberation because of her jury duty. It was obvious to us, that the losing of her job as a single mother of two caused this strong woman to not be able to hold out against the odds and forces of the others.
But, because she was fired, and we as the defense team were not informed of this although the judge had been informed of it during the deliberations by the juror, we believe that this fact may be grounds for a new trial. In addition, there are additional grounds for a new trial or a reversal on appeal.
During the trial, one of the jurors was approached by a U.S. Attorney who did not realize that he was a juror, and was chastised because the juror was going back to the courtroom to see porn. Another juror sent a note asking if they could not be required to view all of the material although the matter must be taken as a whole. We attempted to have the judge question this juror as to this juror’s beliefs and actions and whether he tainted the other jurors. The judge declined. All in all, we believe there were at least three gtounds with the jury that shout out for a new trial or reversal.
One never knows why a juror decides the way they do. Further, one never knows where one went right or went wrong when trying a case. However, upon reflection there is very little that we can say that we did wrong and believe truly that we tried a good case. The jury pool that we had consisted of jurors from Lake County, Pasco County, Manatee County and the Tampa area. From our conversations with the three jurors that approached us, apparently some of these jurors made their mind up quite quickly in the process and there was nothing that we would be able to do or say that would have changed their minds. Sometimes, the jury pool that you get to select your jurors from are ones that really don’t give you a fighting chance to win.