Cincinnati prosecution called faulty by 2 jurors Mapplethorpe case ended in acquittal

October 10, 1990|By New York Times News Service

Jurors in the Mapplethorpe obscenity trial walked into the jury room in Cincinnati Friday near the close of the two-week trial, regretting that the prosecution had not given them more evidence to go on, two jurors said yesterday in telephone interviews.

"If the prosecution could have come up with just one credible witness -- a sociologist, a psychologist, somebody, anybody -- maybe we would have voted differently," said Anthony Eckstein, a 48-year-old engineer and the only college graduate on the panel.

Instead, the prosecution made virtually its entire case out of the disputed photographs themselves, five of which show adult men in sadomasochistic poses and two of which show children with their genitals exposed.

The photographs appeared with 168 others in an exhibition of Mr. Mapplethorpe's work last spring at the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, where they sparked a raid by law enforcement authorities and the nation's first trial of an art museum over the content of an exhibition.

To keep its case uncluttered, the prosecution called only four witnesses. Three of them were police

officers who merely confirmed that the exhibition had taken place; the other was a communications specialist who has worked with anti-pornography groups and whose primary artistic credential was presented as writing songs for the "Captain Kangaroo" television show.

The defense, by contrast, paraded expert after expert, from directors of leading museums to the original curator of the exhibition, each of whom testified to the brilliance and seriousness of the late Mr. Mapplethorpe's work.

Most of the eight jurors are lifelong, working-class Cincinnatians who were not regular museum-goers. It was their admitted lack of exposure to art that worked for the defense in the end: The jurors deferred to the experts.

"All of them, to a person, were so certain it was art," said James Jones, a 36-year-old manager of a warehouse. "We had to go with what we were told."

The jurors seemed indignant that the prosecution had appeared to expect so little of them.

"The prosecution basically decided to show us the pictures so that we'd say they weren't art when everybody else was telling us they were," Mr. Eckstein said. "The defendants were innocent until proven guilty, and they didn't prove them guilty."

Several telephone calls to the Hamilton County prosecutor's office yesterday were not returned.

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