Three members of the jury that acquitted the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center and its director, Dennis Barrie, in a historic obscenity case last week told a local newspaper over the weekend that they found the Robert Mapplethorpe photographs at issue repugnant but were convinced the works have artistic value.
"The pictures were not pretty. No doubt about it," warehouse manager James Jones told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "But as it was brought up in the trial, to be art it doesn't have to be pretty."
Five of the pictures depict homosexual and sadomasochistic activity; two are portraits of children whose genitals are visible.
The jurors said that when first polled, they voted 7 to 1 for acquittal. Jones said the group concluded that "the prosecution did not prove its case."
Jennifer Loesing, an X-ray technician, recalled defense attorney Louis Sirkin's admonition that obscenity cases are like an "apple pie," requiring all the necessary ingredients. He told the jurors they could not convict unless the material in question met all the elements in the Supreme Court's obscenity test.
"That stuck in a lot of our minds," Loesing said.
Prosecution witness Judith Reisman, a communications specialist who said the photographs could be harmful, apparently had little impact on the jury. Foreman Stacey Burton said the prosecution "could have called in a sociologist or psychologist" to bolster its case. She said the defense attorneys did "a hell of a job."
Burton and Loesing also were persuaded by the defense argument that the pictures have educational value. "I think there's something to be learned by these pictures," Burton said.
Loesing concurred: "I learned more about that type of lifestyle than I ever thought I could possibly know."