2 Live Crew case jurors made up own rap songs

October 22, 1990|By New York Times News Service

MIAMI, Fla. -- As his trial opened in Fort Lauderdale last week, Luther Campbell, 29, the leader of the rap music group 2 Live Crew, was anticipating a clash of cultures.

He said he thought the six jurors, who included three women over age 60 and only one black, might be too old, too white and too middle-class to understand his raunchy music.

But the rapper from Miami apparently misjudged the Broward County jurors, who Saturday quickly acquitted Mr. Campbell and two other band members of obscenity charges.

"He stereotyped us, just as certain people were stereotyping him because of his performance," said David Garsow, 24, the jury foreman, who works as an office clerk and sings in the choir at the Key Biscayne Presbyterian Church. "We were very open."

Indeed, the jurors said they saw artistic merit in the rap music, to the point that some of them were attempting their own rap lyrics on trips to and from the courtroom.

They found much amusement in the trial, especially in the prosecution's bungled tape recording of the band's performance. The recording was so bad that one of the prosecutors said that after he heard it he regarded the trial as a "suicide mission."

The jury was sequestered during the trial, and Mr. Garsow said that on the way to the hotel each night, Susan Van Hemert, 42, an assistant middle school principal, would improvise rap songs.

"I thought it would have been cute if we could have come out with the verdict like we were doing a rap song," Mrs. Van Hemert said.

While Mrs. Van Hemert and the other jurors said they laughed at 2 Live Crew's lyrics and at the prosecution's continued playing of the garbled tape of the performance that was the only evidence against the band, they said they took seriously the issue of freedom of speech underlying the case.

The senior member of the jury, Helena Bailie, 76, said she had admired what another juror, Beverly Resnick, 65, said in their deliberations. "She said, 'You take away one freedom, and pretty soon they're all gone,' " Mrs. Bailie, a retired sociology professor from New York, recalled.

Deputies from the Broward County Sheriff's Office arrested Mr. Campbell and two other band members, Mark Ross and Chris Wongwon, June 10 after a show at a nightclub in Hollywood, Fla.

They had performed four songs from their album, "As Nasty as They Wanna Be," which a federal judge had declared obscene.

While the recording of the actual performance was garbled, the jurors did have an opportunity to hear four songs played from the album.

"It had no impact," Mrs. Resnick said. "Those were their songs. They were doing their poetry in song."

In addition to Mr. Garsow, Mrs. Bailie, Mrs. Van Hemert and Mrs. Resnick, who is a retired hospital administrator, the 2 Live Crew jury included Gertrude McLamore, 61, a retired cook, and David Gilliland, 26, a diesel mechanic. Mrs. McLamore is black.

Pedro Dijols, an assistant state attorney, said the prosecution had made "some mistakes" in selecting the jury. "I wanted to strike the whole panel," he said. "We knew we were going to have problems."

He said he had been particularly worried about Mrs. Bailie.

"She hated me," he said. "I could just feel it. She was extremely liberal. She was a sociologist, and I don't like sociologists. They try to reason things out too much."

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