FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA., OCT. 12 -- The jury in their obscenity trial hasn't even been picked yet, and already three members of Miami rap group the 2 Live Crew face possible jail sentences after strolling in late to court this morning.
Band leader Luther Campbell and Crew members Chris Wongwon and Mark Ross face up to six months in jail after Broward County Judge June Johnson cited them for contempt of court.
Campbell and Wongwon showed up 30 minutes late. Ross was more than an hour late.
The judge chewed out the rappers and threatened to jail them for contempt after the trial.
"It is just inexcusable for you not to be here on time," Johnson said, glaring down at Ross from the bench. "I personally do not care if you attend your own trial. But if you say you are going to be here, then you can't just walk in and out whenever you want."
The contempt ruling came as attorneys entered their fifth day of jury selection. They questioned prospective jurors trying to find the six who will consider a case that's being watched around the country as a test of the limits of free speech.
The day began with Johnson deciding to allow prosecutors to dismiss a prospective juror who is black. The band's attorneys argued that truck driver Vernard Kinnel had been improperly singled out by prosecutors because of his race.
The band's attorneys have said they want as many black jurors as possible on the panel judging whether the group's adults-only performance at a Hollywood, Fla., nightclub in June violated community standards of obscenity.
Bruce Rogow, the attorney for Campbell, argued unsuccessfully earlier this week that Johnson should declare the jury selection system unconstitutional because it underrepresents blacks.
The judge ruled today that prosecutors' move to exclude Kinnel from the jury wasn't racially motivated. She agreed with Assistant State Attorney Pedro Dijols that Kinnel's having mentioned he was a 2 Live Crew fan was reason enough to exclude him.
The search for six jurors took up the rest of day, with attorneys for both sides frustrated in their attempts to find people who haven't formed an opinion on the controversy.
Four of the prospective jurors made eloquent arguments in favor of the freedom of expression. Three of them, including one black, were dismissed for bias.
"I'm for the group," said Paul Stockton, a bellman. "If there is something out there you don't like, leave it alone. Nobody pointed a gun at those people and told them to go into the club."
Stockton said he couldn't be neutral on the Crew case. "I wouldn't be a good juror," he said, and was promptly dismissed.