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A Morning with Max Hardcore

Read about Florida Trend reporter Art Levy's day in the jury pool at Max Hardcore's obscenity trial in Tampa.

Art Levy | 10/1/2008
Art Levy
Art Levy
Inside a chilly courtroom on the 14th floor of Tampa's Sam M. Gibbons U.S. Courthouse, 40 of us found out why we had been called to jury duty that morning.

The case involved Paul F. Little, a California man also known as Max Hardcore, who has produced, directed and acted in hundreds of pornographic movies. Judge Susan C. Bucklew said the jury would decide if five of Little's films were obscene by Tampa Bay standards - a legal question made possible by a 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision (Miller v. California) that allows local communities to determine such things.

Bucklew ran the show, asking us a few basic questions, then digging deeper by asking what publications we read, whether we regularly attended a place of worship and if we'd ever purchased a DVD via the internet. During questioning, several prospective jurors said they wouldn't be able to sit through what they'd be required to watch, which we were told would include nearly eight hours of scenes depicting sex, violence, abuse, humiliation, urination, even vomiting.

One man, a church youth pastor, said he didn't want to be on the jury because he had once been addicted to pornography and feared what would happen if he watched it again. A retired police officer wanted off because he said his job experience led him to believe a link exists between pornography and rape. Although his statement led attorneys from both sides to approach the bench and whisper loudly among themselves and to Bucklew, even he wasn't immediately dismissed.

So, when it was my turn to stand up and face Bucklew, I didn't dare mention that the trial, scheduled to last five or six days, might possibly keep me from attending my 5-year-old son's preschool graduation ceremony. At Bucklew's urging, however, I did explain what I do for Florida Trend, which includes writing the Of Counsel law column. I had a sense then that I wouldn't be seated - and I was right.

Honestly, it was a relief to get out of watching eight hours of sadistic pornography, but it was also disappointing to be bounced from an important case. I got over it, though. On the day the jurors I left behind determined that Little's films were indeed obscene and found him and his company guilty of 20 counts of selling and distributing obscene materials, I was a proud father, watching my youngest graduate from preschool.

--Art Levy is assistant editor for Florida Trend magazine

Tags: Politics & Law, Government/Politics & Law

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