One of the jurors in the pornography trial of Movie Buffs general manager Larry Warren Peterman has no doubt that the 15 videos shown in court are pornographic.
In fact, the juror said, all six Utah County residents on the panel believe that the videos are obscene, yet the jury failed to convict Peterman. The juror, who asked not to be named, said it was very frustrating for the jury to agree yet still not be able to reach a verdict."It wasn't an issue of whether it was pornographic," said the juror. "We all felt it was pornographic.
"The problem was that this one juror didn't feel comfortable with defining a community standard. The juror didn't feel one could actually exist. I'll be honest, I didn't agree."
Ironically, the dissenting juror was one of those on the panel who most adamantly lobbied for the jury to issue a written statement after it deadlocked Wednesday afternoon. The statement said that the jurors don't think Movie Buffs or other video stores should rent movies similar to those the jury was forced to watch.
Yet the dissenting juror's conscience didn't allow him to convict Peterman. The dissenter felt uncomfortable about telling fellow Utah County residents what they could or could not watch, a fellow juror told the Deseret News.
The dissenter's hangup related to jury instruction No. 24, which read in part: "If any of you determine that you are unable to arrive at the community standard - or that one does not exist - then the juror who feels that the standard does not exist should vote to acquit."
The juror said that the ambiguity of laws about pornography and contradictions in the instructions given to the jury contributed to prolonging the jury's deliberations, which continued for 13 hours Tuesday and Wednesday. Most of the time was spent debating the community standard issue, with five jurors trying to convince the dissenter.
"It was very frustrating for me," the juror said. "I'm not blaming this juror, but I was very disappointed that we couldn't come up with a verdict.
"Right now I feel like it was a waste of 10 days of my life."
However, the juror said, the lesson taught by the trial was the importance of becoming involved in one's community and standing up for personal beliefs.
The juror was shocked to emerge from the courtroom Wednesday amid news reports that Movie Buffs considered the mistrial a victory.
"That wasn't the case at all," the juror said. "We all felt that Movie Buffs shouldn't be distributing that stuff in the community - even the (dissenting) juror."
The juror was shell-shocked after watching the first of the videos on June 18 in 4th District Judge Lynn W. Davis' courtroom. Eventually, the juror learned to cope with watching a succession of graphic sexual acts in movies that contained virtually nothing else.
"I wasn't mentally prepared for the first day," the juror said. "It was probably the most uncomfortable day I've ever had.
"I don't consider myself a religious fanatic, but I could not sit there and watch it the whole time."
The juror emphasized that the jury doesn't blame the dissenter for the jury's failure to reach a verdict. On the contrary, the juror said, the dissenter should be applauded for remaining true to individual conscience. But that doesn't lessen the feeling that the entire trial was a waste.
"I put myself through all this with the idea that it would be useful," the juror said. "It feels like a real letdown."
Perhaps surprisingly, the juror said that the Utah County Attorney's Office should proceed with another trial of Peterman. Prosecutors scheduled a hearing July 13 to tell Davis their intentions about either dropping the charges or holding another trial.
"I really hope they continue and do this again, as bad as it would be for nine other jurors," the juror said.