Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Pensacola's Community Values

"Residents of Pensacola are more likely to search for sexual terms than some more wholesome ones."
-- New York Times, June 24, 2008
This is rich. It seems there will be a trial next week in nearby Milton. According to the New York Times:
Clinton Raymond McCowen... is facing charges that he created and distributed obscene material through a Web site based in Florida. The charges include racketeering and prostitution, but ... the prosecution’s case fundamentally relies on proving that the material on the site is obscene.
Why does this seemingly run-of-the-mine case make the pages of the Times?

Because defense lawyer Lawrence Walters is planning to introduce evidence of the actual Internet search words used by folk in the Pensacola area, which are aggregated by Google Trends, to show the high level of "interest in the material within the jurisdiction of the First Circuit Court for Santa Rosa County, where the trial is taking place."

Since the law says what is "obscene" is, itself, determined by "local community values" the defense attorney "plans to... try to persuade jurors that their neighbors have broader interests than they might have thought." Pensacola area residents, he argues --
are more likely to use Google to search for terms like “orgy” than for “apple pie” or “watermelon.” ... [I]nterest in the sexual subjects exceeds that of more mainstream topics — and ... by extension, the sexual material distributed by his client is not outside the norm.
“Time and time again you’ll have jurors sitting on a jury panel who will condemn material that they routinely consume in private,” said Mr. Walters, the defense lawyer. Using the Internet data, “we can show how people really think and feel and act in their own homes, which,
parenthetically, is where this material was intended to be viewed,” he added.
Very creative. Except for one thing. There's another "community value" that trumps however randy may be the interests of Pensacola residents. And it isn't likely to be exposed by any gizmo Google can invent.

We're betting there isn't a jury person in Milton who will admit to ever having had a sexual thought enter his head. Worse, they'll never admit to suspecting their friends, neighbors, and fellow church-goers of such a shameful thing, either.

How else explain all the Baptist preachers around here who get arrested for pederasty, rape, and similar sexual offenses? Hypocrisy reigns supreme in this buckle of the bible belt.

State's Attorney Russ Edgar knows this. That's why he told the Times, "How many times you do something doesn’t necessarily speak to standards and values.”

Addendum: In a funny misprint, the Times article on-line this morning became momentarily confused over just who it is whose conduct must meet acceptable community standards. Click on the screen-shot below.

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