FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA., OCT. 18 -- The tape recording was fuzzy. The foul language uttered at a concert by the rap group 2 Live Crew was nearly drowned out by the raucous shouting of the audience. So the prosecution -- seeking an obscenity conviction against three group members -- asked its witness, Broward County Detective Debbie Werder, to interpret the tape for the jury. Werder had attended the June concert undercover.
Werder listened intently, trying and failing to tweeze the dirty words from the music and the shouting. She shook her head helplessly. "Could you wind it back and play it again?" Werder sighed.
The prosecutors rewound. Again, Werder shook her head.
One more time.
The tape was no help, and without it, Werder was lost.
"This isn't the type of music I listen to," she explained. "I can't just spout off the words from memory."
In short, Day 2 of the state's casewas not a good one for the prosecution.
For one thing, the jury was openly chuckling at the music. During the testimony on Wednesday, jury members had listened stone-faced, but after a few hours they had sent a note to Broward County Judge June L. Johnson asking for permission to laugh. Johnson said sure, and so they laughed.
After Werder's agonizing time on the stand, the judge sent the jury from the room and asked the prosecution team to secure a headset by Friday morning to aid the detective's hearing so that the trial could proceed.
Werder's tape is the second of the performance that has been played to the jury. On Wednesday, it listened for more than five hours to Detective Eugene McCloud "translate" the tape he made at the Hollywood, Fla., nightclub performance June 10.
The rappers -- Luther Campbell, Mark Ross and Christopher Wongwon -- are charged with staging an obscene performance. If convicted, they face up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
The defense team is ecstatic that the prosecution is having so much trouble deciphering the main evidence against the rappers, the tape recording of the 45-minute performance at Club Futura for which they were arrested. "This tape is unintelligible," said defense lawyer Bruce Rogow.
He said he thought the prosecution's strategy of playing and replaying the tapes, then having its witnesses interpret them, was "inappropriate." "Did you ever hear a concert reviewed like this one, where every few seconds they stop it and then start it again?"
Rogow sought unsuccessfully to have Werder's tape barred after Werder revealed that she had left it in the trunk of her car for a week after the arrest.
After court, he blasted the prosecution as "inept."
"I hope in more serious cases, they do a better job," he said. "I'd hate to think that in murder cases and drug cases, they left the evidence in the trunk of their car for a week to rot."