One hundred Utah County residents soon will receive summonses to appear as prospective jurors in the Movie Buffs obscenity trial, but attorneys for three Utahns charged with distributing pornography still believe the trial won't happen at all.
Defense attorney Jerry Mooney told 4th District Judge Lynn W. Davis during a pre-trial conference Friday that he expects a ruling any day from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals that could make the trial unnecessary.The Court of Appeals in Denver has been asked to rule on the validity of a search warrant that allowed Utah County law enforcement officers to raid Movie Buffs stores in Lehi and American Fork in October 1996 and seize videos that constitute most of the evidence in the case.
Prosecutors, however, contend that because a federal judge in Salt Lake City already has ruled that the search warrant was valid, Davis must operate on the assumption that the Movie Buffs trial will begin June 10 as scheduled. Already, the Utah County Attorney's Office is preparing for how jurors will view approximately 16 hours of allegedly pornographic videos.
"They're the ones who've got to put the videos on, so the TVs are their problem," Mooney said. "They're going back and forth between a big TV and two small TVs."
Also during Friday's hearing, Davis ruled that he will not dismiss one count of racketeering, a second-degree felony, against each of the three defendants, Susan Janae Kingston, Larry Warren Peterman and Marjorie Ann Cramer. All three pleaded not guilty to the racketeering charges Friday.
Movie Buffs owner Kingston, general manager Peterman and district manager Cramer previously entered not-guilty pleas to 15 counts each of distributing pornographic material, a third-degree felony, and one count each of distributing pornographic material, a class A misdemeanor.
Mooney filed a motion with Davis Friday to suppress evidence obtained during the raid on the Lehi and American Fork Movie Buffs stores because he believes the search warrant was invalid. Davis will hear arguments on that motion June 1.
Deputy Utah County Attorney Curtis Larson requested that Davis call in 100 prospective jurors, an unusually high number because many of them will be excluded based on their answers to attorneys' questions before the trial begins. Potential jurors will fill out questionnaires before the jury selection process begins in earnest.
"It's always hard to get a jury in (obscenity) cases," Mooney said. "There will be a lot of people who will say, `I can't be fair.' "
The challenge will be finding jurors who can apply the law to decide whether the videos are por-no-graphic instead of just basing their verdict on an emotional response, Mooney said.
Another problem is that jurors might feel pressure from friends, family and people they don't even know.
Larson said the county attorney's office has received calls from residents who are upset that the case is being prosecuted. So that jurors won't feel the threat of recrimination, Larson requested - and Davis granted - that jurors' names and other personal information will be concealed.
Mooney contends that all the videos in question, except one, are cable-television edited versions of X-rated movies. The other video, titled "Shooting Star," is clearly more graphic than the rest and was planted there by someone not connected with the store, he said.
That could be an issue at trial, but prosecutors said they will proceed with charges based on the other movies even if "Shooting Star" is indeed a plant.
"We have from the start taken the high road and indicated that if it is a plant, we're willing to dismiss that count," Larson said.
Prosecutors said that they would like to get more information about the circumstances surrounding the appearance of that video in the store and possibly could press charges against whoever put it there.