Jury Selection Begins In Ira Isaacs Obscenity Trial, Round 3

LOS ANGELES—Trial began today for adult producer/retailer Ira Isaacs for the third time, with a panel of 120 potential jurors—twice the usual juror pool—being brought in to insure that Judge George H. King would be able to seat the 12 jurors and four alternates necessary to decide whether Isaacs is guilty of any of the charges in the seven-count indictment that include production, sale and mailing/shipping four allegedly obscene videos: Mako's First Time Scat, Hollywood Scat Amateurs 7 & 10, and Japanese Doggie 3 Way.

This is the third time Isaacs has faced these or similar charges; the first trial resulting in a mistrial owing to the self-recusal of Judge Alex Kozinski after it was discovered that the judge owned a website that featured humorous sexual situations, some of them hardcore, while the second, also before Judge King, result in a mistrial after two jurors found that Isaacs' movies were indeed artistic, as he has claimed all along, and therefore did not meet the obscenity test first enunciated in Miller v. California.

The jury pool was divided into two parts, with roughly half entering Judge King's sixth floor courtroom in the Roybal Federal Building in downtown LA at about 9:30 a.m. to receive instructions from the judge and to answer some preliminary questions.

Judge King told the potential jurors that he expected that the trial would last three or four days, and would involve the four movies named above. The judge also gave a brief description of each movie, noting that three included "ingesting feces" and "urinating and drinking urine," while the fourth involved a woman having sex with two dogs.

Judge King's questions included whether any of the potential jurors had read or heard anything about the case. Two said that they had, and one was unsure whether that knowledge would cause him difficulty in being objective when hearing and seeing the evidence presented.

A much greater reaction was seen, however, when the judge asked the pool if any of them would have difficulty watching the movies he had described, and no less than 17 said that they would.

"I would throw up all over the courtroom," said one potential juror, while another stated that just hearing the judge describe the movies had given her an upset stomach. One woman, who described herself as a "vegan," said that she owned three dogs, and that the thought of seeing dogs engaged in sex acts with a human upset her—but if all she had to do was to read transcripts of what happened in the movies, she'd be fine. Still another woman said she would have difficulty facing her children after seeing the movies, and yet another simply said of the judge's description, "It disgusted me."

But the real fireworks attendant to that issue came during the questioning of the second part of the jury pool, where one gentleman stood up and declared loudly that the videos "are against God and everything I believe in," then turned to Isaacs, pointed his finger and stated, "You should be ashamed of yourself!" The judge, of course, admonished the man for speaking out, and warned the rest of the crowd that they should confine themselves to answering the questions asked, and not to give personal opinions about the material, which they had not yet even seen.

But before leaving that issue, 11 other potential jurors had weighed in to state that from Judge King's descriptions, they thought they would have trouble watching the movies—including one woman who, after stating that the concepts of the movies "makes me sick," promptly exited the courtroom with her hand over her mouth. One potential objected to watching the movies on the ground that, "As a nurse, I know what ingesting feces can do to you," while another who described himself as a dog lover said that he would find the idea of watching a person have sex with dogs "repulsive." Judge King responded by stating, "There is no requirement that you fix your eye on every frame of the video," and sought to understand whether the man would be able to serve if he were allowed to look away from the video screen occasionally.

That strategy wouldn't have worked for one objector, who told the judge she couldn't watch because, "Once I see it, I can't unsee it," while yet another woman stated that as a feminist, she was "against humiliation of women," a response that got brief applause from another panelist.

Still more potentials told Judge King that they thought they would or might get sick from watching the movies, with one stating, "I'm already cold-sweating right now," and another cautioning, "If I have to watch that, I would want a bucket next to me."

One other question from the judge, asking whether any of the potential jurors had any connection with the adult entertainment industry, brought a surprising number of responses, including one man who said that one of his relatives by marriage was an adult performer, and another who said that her close friend of 20 years was an adult movie editor. Two panelists responded that they had rented rooms from performers, while another said that his friend lived in the same house with a husband-and-wife performer team. None of them, however, said that those relationships would bias them in one direction or the other when judging the facts of the case, and the man whose relative was a performer said that talking with her had given him a more positive image of the industry.

After each panel was questioned in open court, each potential juror was given a multi-page questionnaire similar to the one used in Isaacs' previous trial to fill out, then told to come back tomorrow for final jury selection.

It is, of course, too early to speculate what may happen with the government's third attempt to put Isaacs in prison simply for making or selling movies that fall outside the norms of hardcore adult content, but considering all the time and money they've put into making the charges against him—for example, the FBI has conducted surveillance on Isaacs and his business for nearly a decade, beginning in January of 2003—it's doubtful that they'll want to try him for a fourth time if they fail to get a conviction in the current proceeding.

Check back tomorrow for AVN's continuing coverage of this important First Amendment trial.