Pornography producer John Stagliano is on trial in Washington, D.C., accused of interstate trafficking of obscenity. Reason has been producing workmanlike coverage of the trial.
Setting aside the constitutionally difficult prospect of defining obscenity, the trial is replete with procedural anomalies that call into question the basic fairness of the proceedings.
District Court Judge Richard Leon ruled that Stagliano cannot use expert witnesses, and shut the press out of the jury selection process (which, after a full week, has yet to finish). Things don't bode well for a free and open trial: The courtroom monitors that will display the crucial evidence are all arranged to be out of the sightlines of press and interested citizens, viewable only by jurors and lawyers. If the press and the public cannot see the evidence, how will we know if the trial is fair?
One of the proposed expert witnesses for the defense is University of California Santa Barbara Film Studies Professor Constance Penley, who would have testified to the artistic value of the indicted films. Artistic value is one of the characteristics of non-obscene materials, so this cripples Stagliano’s defense from the outset. Reason’s interview with Penley is available here.
The judge has even kept the jury selection questionnaire’s secret. Richard Abowitz is covering the trial for Reason. His latest dispatch is available here. Read the whole thing. Additional coverage from The Blog of Legal Times is available here. Full disclosure: Stagliano is a former Cato donor.