Jurors ruled Saturday that the ribald rap group 2 Live Crew was not guilty of violating obscenity laws in a concert that resulted in the arrests of three band members.
The jury deliberated a little more than two hours after a two-week trial based largely on a mostly unintelligible recording of the concert.Band leader Luther Campbell jumped to his feet, raised his right arm and smiled at supporters in the courtroom as the verdicts were read. Three of four band members faced one misdemeanor count each.
Many in the courtroom erupted into cheers and applause.
In closing arguments Saturday, attorneys for both sides agreed that 2 Live Crew's lyrics are nasty, but they disputed whether the rap band's songs are obscene.
Once attorneys wound up their closing arguments, jurors began deliberating whether three members of 2 Live Crew gave an obscene performance or had the right to rap without government intrusion.
Campbell, Mark "Brother Marquis" Ross and Chris "Fresh Kid Ice" Wongwon each faced up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine if they were found guilty.
The charges stemmed from an adults-only performance at a nightclub in nearby Hollywood on June 10, four days after a federal judge in Broward County ruled the group's album "As Nasty As They Wanna Be" was obscene.
"Can't tell what people are thinking orwhat's on people's mind," Campbell said after the verdict. "We just had a lot of hope."
"Definitely, we are going to play again in Broward County," he added.
Assistant State Attorney Pedro Dijols said he could not say whether a similar case would be prosecuted in the future. But he said the verdict showed Broward authorities needed to do a better job of gathering evidence.
"I think the case was an education for everyone involved," Dijols said.
"The state ought to spend its money on real criminals," commented Campbell's attorney, Bruce Rogow.
The jury foreman, David Garsow, said the state's key piece of evidence was lacking. "I think it was the tape recordings. They just weren't clear enough for us to decide what happened," Garsow said.
But he added that jurors didn't consider the band's album to be obscene.
"As the cross-section of the community that we are, it was just not obscene," Garsow said.
2 Live Crew's lyrics have been criticized for their sexual preoccupation and as demeaning to women.
"Of all the things in this world, sex is the one thing that all of us do," Rogow said during closing arguments. "But if you don't say it quite the right way, you can get in big trouble with the state."
Allan Jacobi, Ross' lawyer, said: "Because of the sexually explicit content of 2 Live Crew's music, the state would have you believe it was beyond the protection of the First Amendment. This is not so."
In his rebuttal, Dijols said "this was a plain, simple, nasty act. That's all it was. It's unbelievable they can come in here with a straight face and tell you something different."
Rogow responded: "If that's all it is, it's not against the law. The First Amendment does protect speech, even nasty speech, ever four-letter words. The purpose of the Constitution is to keep the state from not liking something and putting people in jail."
Broward County Circuit Judge June Johnson told the jurors that they would have to acquit the band members if the panel found any artistic value in the group's show, even if it appealed to prurient interests.
The prosecution was coming off a victory, winning an obscenity conviction against a Fort Lauderdale record store owner for selling the same record. After hearing similar defense testimony last month, the jury in the case of Charles Freeman rejected artistic merit as a defense.