Comics

Conviction of the Innocent

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The Supreme Court has refused to hear the case of Jesus Castillo, a man fined and on probation because he sold a comic book not suitable for children—to a grown-up.

"I think the hardest thing to believe is that Jesus was found guilty of selling an adult comic, from the adult section of the store, to an adult police officer, and convicted because the DA convinced the jury that all comics are really intended for children," writer Neil Gaiman comments. "I can't imagine a world in which the same argument would have worked for books or for films."

[Via Franklin's Findings.]

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  1. Did they bother to point out that comics intended for children usually have a Comics Code seal on them and the ones not intended for children don’t?

    Shows how long since I looked at comic books. Is the CCA still conferring its seal? Is it still in business?

  2. Hahahaha. HAHAHAHAHA. Comics intended only for children, that’s fucking rich. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
    Someone find that DA’s address and send him a complete run of La Blue Girl.

  3. does this now mean that we know “WWJD” here? and does this mean we shouldn’t emulate it?

    jest wonderin’,
    drf

  4. Shows how long since I looked at comic books. Is the CCA still conferring its seal? Is it still in business?

    The Comic Code Authority is still in business, but it has little influence. Marvel Comics no longers uses the CCA seal on any of its books. Instead, it has its own in-house ratings system. DC Comics uses the seal on most of its books, but obviously not including its mature readers imprint, Vertigo. Image, Crossgen and Dark Horse do not follow the CCA, nor do the vast majority of indie publishers. The fastest growing segment of the industry is manga, and none of the manga publishers use the CCA, either. That leaves Archie Comics, which is the only company that enthusiastically supports the CCA — no surprise as the head of the company is, if memory serves, also the head of the CCA.

  5. Bongo also uses the seal.

  6. Just typical Duhbya-style logic for the 21st century. Frightening, isn’t it?

    Yes, I’m sure that the statements by Bush in his State of the Union about the pernicious effects of adult comic books has had a very strong impact.

    Sheeesh, would you lefties stop trying to blame everything in the universe on Bush.

  7. Where’s Larry Flynt on this one? Oh yeah, running for governor!

    Can it be that the DA is a love child of Edwin Meese and Tipper Gore?

  8. That leaves Archie Comics, which is the only company that enthusiastically supports the CCA — no surprise as the head of the company is, if memory serves, also the head of the CCA.

    Dunno if Archie’s current boss heads the CCA, but his old one certainly had a hand in its founding:
    http://www.rcharvey.com/hindsight/goldwater.html

  9. “Sheeesh, would you lefties stop trying to blame everything in the universe on Bush.”

    Yeah, it’s already been irrefutably established that everything wrong with the universe is the fault of old WJ Clinton. (Including the touchiness and grating political correctness of Bush’s right wing fartcatchers.)

  10. Just typical Duhbya-style logic for the 21st century. Frightening, isn’t it?

    Castillo was arrested in 2000, you fuckin’ dolt.

    Guess who was President then? Hint: it wasn’t Bush.

  11. see?

  12. Don’t they make comics for fuckin’ dolts only?

  13. So this means his guilty verdict stands? I think that’s the most depressing case this year, even more so than Rosenthal’s conviction. But I haven’t heard of this case before, does anyone have a link to an established news source article?

  14. And the prosecutor was a creepy GIRL!

  15. Mike says:

    “It’s a sad thing that the way our legal system works is that we pass laws first, then some poor schmuck has to get carted off to jail before we decide whether the law is OK or not.”

    What’s the alternative, cart the guy off to jail first and then pass a law?

  16. The Dallas Observer ran an overview of the Castillo case in 2001: http://www.dallasobserver.com/issues/2001-01-04/news.html

  17. Guess who was Governor of the state where the arrest occurred then? Hint: it was Bush.

  18. And don’t nobody count on ol dubya giving that purveyor of porn to preteens a pardon.

  19. As long as it reduces the urge for southerners to have sex, I have no problem with it.

  20. And it took an obsessive Bush apologist exactly thirteen minutes to pounce on an offending anti-Bush remark. If you’re looking for a form of libertarianism that’s just GOP lite, I think the Heritage Foundation’s three doors down.

  21. Libertarians may be interested in the personal responsibility perspective of this case. Am I concerned that I could be similarly deprived of my liberty? Not a whit – because I do not choose to be a retail clerk in an establishment which sells pornography.

  22. In this case, the Jury shares guilt with the prosecutor.
    A lawyer I know once pointed out that “A jury is composed of 12 people who were not smart enough to get out of jury duty.”

  23. anon @ 4:14

    I know if we look hard enough we’ll find something you’re guilty of.

    “first they came for the……”

  24. arjay said:
    “anon @ 4:14
    I know if we look hard enough we’ll find something you’re guilty of.”
    You don’t have to look too hard. How about weak reasoning… missing the point… deliberate obtuseness?!?

  25. Good to see that Dallas has time to arrest comic book peddlers…oh wait, they don’t!

    From the Dallas Observer on 7/31/2003:
    No. 1 With a Bullet: Welcome to America’s crime capital

    “Dallas is Number One. We have the worst crime rate of America’s major cities, based on the most recent set of FBI crime statistics. And guess what? It’s getting way worse even as you read this.”

  26. im a bit late to the party here, but i cant say i have a lot of sympathy for a man who let the ‘Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’ run his defense. Are they even members of the Justice League?

  27. I am a big fan of Neil Gaiman, but I think that he and many others on this site are focusing too much on the “comics are for kids only” theme. If you read the Dallas Observer story it is clear that this obscenity case is like all others: the issue is whether the material is question is obscene, not whether comics are “for kids.” You may not like the law, but it is clear that municipalities have the right to outlaw obscene material, whether it’s a comic, movie or novel, so long as the ban is consistent with the 1st Amendment. The Supreme Court, in turn, has interpreted this to mean that a work must be shown to lack any artistic, scientific, literary or political merit before a conviction can occur. 12 people in Texas heard testimony, probably reviewed the book, and came to that conclusion. The fact that it was a comic is purely incidential. As an aside, when I was in college a friend of mine had anime videos on par with this book’s theme. If the book is anything like the movie, it’s pretty extreme, (the general theme being sexual assault on women) and is not just a case of “soft core” porn.

  28. Was your friends name Sean, perchance ?

  29. As a matter of fact, it was not. My friend was a big anime fan who had a huge collection. One thing I learned from college is that certain aspects of Japanese popular culture are not very admirable.

  30. Sean, Dallas is quite possibly the hard-core pornography capital of Texas – if not the entire southwest. There are no DAs prosecuting the innumerable porn vendors of Dallas.

    Also, the DA built his closing remarks around the fact that this was a comic book, and thus “for kids”.

    The fact that this was a comic book is rather central to the issue.

  31. Sean,

    I hear you. I had to stop watching Legend of the Overfiend after about 5 minutes.

  32. Castillo was represented by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. Did they bother to point out that comics intended for children usually have a Comics Code seal on them and the ones not intended for children don’t?

    Reminds me of Bagge’s Reason cover of the jury box.

  33. Sometimes I am afraid that news like this only serves the prupose of discouragement…

  34. It could be that the Supreme Court is interested in this sort of case but is waiting for exactly the right case to set a clear precedent. You cannot read too much into their turning down a case.

  35. In Mexico there’s softcore comic books available everywhere. We saw a middle aged guy reading one once. Don’t know how interested the kids are.

  36. Heh, Mexico? Try Japan.

  37. The CBLDF provided expert witnesses to explain both the fact that most comic books nowadays are for adults and to explain the genre of Japanese comic that Castillo sold.

  38. “all comics are really intended for children”

    Umm, ever heard of JAPAN?

    The DA in queestion is the one who needs to be in jail. By that (very messed up) logic, it would be illegal to sell or even OWN adult comics – they are inherently parn for children.

    Did anyone bother to tell the jury what the actual LAW is?

    Of course, it wouldn’t really matter – the whole point of having a jury is so that the lawyers can pick the people they think are most easily manipulated… At least, that’s the way it works right now.

  39. Wow, that is insane. Did anyone point out to the jury that those comics are routinely sold in half the urban comics shops in the nation? Are they going to shut all of them down?

  40. Just typical Duhbya-style logic for the 21st century. Frightening, isn’t it?

  41. As a separate, but related situation, who ever thought one of our children’s favorites would have such interesting insinuations (check out the reader review)?

    I also found Super Queers to be an interesting article on comic books.

  42. The Bush haters are losing their touch.

    9 posts before the first Bush bash and more then an hour after the article was posted.

  43. Re: the “Duhbya” comment: seems to me it was a Gore who wanted to censure rock lyrics, etc.

    This, of course, has nothing to do with the federal government, but is a local prosecutor with some kind of agenda. That’s what the supremes were saying when they refused to hear it.

  44. Someone wrote:
    “It could be that the Supreme Court is interested in this sort of case but is waiting for exactly the right case to set a clear precedent.”

    It’s a sad thing that the way our legal system works is that we pass laws first, then some poor schmuck has to get carted off to jail before we decide whether the law is OK or not.

    Finally, I’d like to point out quite forcefully that this case, and its outcome, has nothing at all to do with either the war on terror or with President Bush.

    It probably does have to do with the gullibility of juries. They should have asked for a change of venue – to Los Angeles, where the case would have been laughed out of court.

  45. Yeah, it’s already been irrefutably established that everything wrong with the universe is the fault of old WJ Clinton. (Including the touchiness and grating political correctness of Bush’s right wing fartcatchers.)

    Idiot.

  46. Ian, I have to disagree. The fact that the DA based his closing remarks on the “comics are for kids” theme does not mean that the law has a different standard for comics as opposed to other media. Lawyers in closing argument are allowed to make all kinds of argument, even non-legal ones, so long as they don’t stray too far off the reservation (like referring to excluded evidence, for example). As far as the law is concerned, the test for whether something is “obscene” does not depend on the form of the expression. The only question is whether what is expressed is “obscene.” In other words, while the DA may make a moralistic argument that some sliding scale test should be applied, the law (i.e., the 1st Amendment and Supreme Court precedent) does not make this distinction. I know that many supporters of obscenity laws base them on a “need to protect the children argument” (and this forms one reason why these laws are on the books) from a legal perspective the question is not whether material will harm kids or is likely to fall into their hands, it is whether the material crosses the line of “community standards.”
    One last point, I am not saying I agree with what happened here. I’m just trying to point out what I see as an overreaction to what is, for all intents and purposes, legally irrelevant (and yes, I am a lawyer).

  47. I think people equate a situation like this with Bush being in power… because Bush is a conservative, and generally, conservatives (particularly conservative Christians) are usually against any and all pornography… PARTICULARLY pornography that DARES TO MASQUERADE AS CHILDREN’S READING MATERIAL!!!!!!!!!!
    heh.

  48. “Was your friends name Sean, perchance ?”

    And you know sometimes it’s not so easy,
    ‘Specially when your only friend
    Talks, sees, looks and feels like you,
    And you do the same, just like him.

  49. Will TNN be prosecuted next because Stripperella is really aimed at the audience for the powderpuff girls?

  50. From the perspective of a Texas lawyer who’s concerned that folks are badly exaggerating the likely impact of this case — and that there’s also a lot of factual misinformation floating around about it — I’ve blogged about this case at considerable length at http://beldar.blogs.com/beldarblog/2003/08/im_very_close_t.html ….

    As long as Miller v. California is the law of the land, there exists a risk of this sort of conviction. But this case emphatically does NOT set any precedent that, for instance, comics aren’t protected by the First Amendment, as some have portrayed it. It has almost zero precedential effect, in fact.

    But for the failure of Mr. Castillo’s defense lawyer to renew a pretrial objection during the trial itself, the trial court almost certainly would have kept out of evidence any mention of the school. As it was, the prosecutor’s conflating of the obscenity issues with the “availability to children” issue was something she probably felt she had to do in order to get a conviction. It’s a good sign when prosecutors have to cheat to win, in general.

    Mr. Castillo probably did get a raw deal. It’s mitigated substantially by the fact that (contrary to much of the reporting going around) he did zero jail time on this misdemeanor conviction, and his legal fees and the fine and court costs were picked up by supporters.

    Finally, if this comic — which by any definition was pornographic — had been in a secured area like that from which most pornographic videos and magazines are sold, the prosecution wouldn’t have been able to do her mischief. A good defense lawyer should be able to keep the jury focused on the “consenting adults in the privacy of their own homes” theme; this one, for whatever reasons, apparently didn’t. So even though there’s a risk that this kind of thing will happen again — and friends and neighbors, you’re kidding yourself if you think it can’t happen anywhere in the US, not just in Texas — there are reasonable grounds to think that it won’t happen too very often, and that there might indeed be a different result at least some of the time.

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