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Comic censorship


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http://www.comicon.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic&f=36&t=001262 ://http://www.comicon.com/cgi-bin/ulti...&f=36&t=001262 ://http://www.comicon.com/cgi-bin/ulti...&f=36&t=001262 ://http://www.comicon.com/cgi-bin/ulti...&f=36&t=001262 ://http://www.comicon.com/cgi-bin/ulti...&f=36&t=001262 ://http://www.comicon.com/cgi-bin/ulti...&f=36&t=001262 ://http://www.comicon.com/cgi-bin/ulti...&f=36&t=001262


The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has learned that the U.S. Supreme Court denied Jesus Castillo's petition for writ of certiorari, bringing his three-year quest for justice to a close. Castillo is presently serving a period of unsupervised probation.

The CBLDF has been providing counsel for Castillo since his arrest in 2000 when he was charged with two counts of obscenity for selling adult comic books to adults. The Fund's lawyers persuaded the court to try the two counts separately and waged a fierce courtroom battle that included expert testimony from Scott McCloud and Professor Susan Napier. The State prosecutor did not offer contradictory testimony, but secured a guilty verdict with a closing argument stating, "I don't care what type of evidence or what type of testimony is out there, use your rationality, use your common sense. Comic books, traditionally what we think of, are for kids. This is in a store directly across from an elementary school and it is put in a medium, in a forum, to directly appeal to kids. That is why we are here, ladies and gentlemen. … We're here to get this off the shelf." Castillo was found guilty and sentenced to 180 days in jail, a year probation, and a $4,000 fine.


Immediately following the first trial, the State dropped the second obscenity count while the Fund prepared its appeal. In 2002 the Appeals court rendered a 2-1 split decision upholding the conviction. Justice Tom James, writing in dissent, would have reversed the conviction on the ground that the State did not provide sufficient evidence that Castillo had knowledge of the content and character of the offending comic book. On the strength of James' dissent, the Fund filed a Petition for Discretionary Review to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which was denied. At the end of the road for Texas Justice, the Fund took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.


Fund Legal Counsel Burton Joseph explains, "It is rare that the Supreme Court accepts individual criminal cases for consideration. In the Castillo case, in spite of the odds, CBLDF appealed to the Supreme Court on the chance that they would reverse what appeared to be an unjust and unconstitutional decision in the Texas courts. The principle was important, but we knew the odds were long."


"Unfortunately, fighting the right battles is not a guarantee of winning," Fund Director Charles Brownstein says. "The Fund put up a strong fight for Castillo against the rising tide of repression. We were successful in knocking out the second charge against Jesus and in getting a sentence where no actual jail time was served, but unfortunately the higher courts would not correct the blinding injustice at the heart of this case."


Fund board member Peter David says, "When dealing with the denseness of the `Protect the children!' censorship hysteria in Texas, coupled with the unlikelihood that the Supreme Court would hear the case, this was almost a hopeless cause from the get-go. However, oftentimes it's the hopeless causes that are the ones worth fighting. This unfortunate and spectacularly unjust outcome doesn't change that."


Burton Joseph adds, "One thing is clear, with every defeat of the First Amendment, the censors gain courage to pursue their unconstitutional ends. The Castillo case is among the most appalling cases of injustice ever to come to the attention of CBLDF. Conservative communities are quick to condemn comic book artists and publishers without an understanding that they enjoy the full panoply of First Amendment rights."


"This case bodes badly for the First Amendment," Brownstein comments. "By choosing to deny Jesus' plea for justice, the Supreme Court has allowed a precedent to stand that allows a man to be convicted of obscenity charges without adequate proof being presented that the work he is convicted for selling is constitutionally obscene. All because the medium the alleged obscenity was placed in `is for kids.'"


Fund board member Neil Gaiman says, "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. I can't imagine a world in which the same argument would have worked for books or for films -- and I'm afraid that highlights why comics retailers (and artists and writers and publishers) still need a Defense Fund, and still need to be defended."


"Perhaps the worst thing about the decision is the chilling effect it will have on everyone else working with comics and graphic novels," says attorney and Fund board member Louise Nemschoff, adding, "As we approach another election year, we can expect to see an increase in such attacks on free expression. Now, more than ever, we need the CBLDF to both educate the public and defend those working in the industry from further incursion on First Amendment rights. It deserves our whole-hearted support."


To make a donation to the Fund, please visit http://www.cbldf.com.

More coverage of this case can be found at http://www.cbldf.org


"I find this whole case an appalling abuse of power and ridiculous in the lack of evidence. To simply dismiss all evidence because comics are assumed to be children's entertainment and to go no further in that investigation is a travesty of justice.


It just goes to show how far we still need to go as an industry to change people's perceptions of what comics are all about. This however goes beyond comics and into a realm of injustice on the level of Nazi book burning that only begins with comics and tomorrow goes after film and novels.


How many video stores carry material for both adults and for children? Libraries? Big chain book stores? Why are these businesses and establishments exempt from obscenity laws if only the proximity to children and children's materials are what's on trial here?


The whole situation is disgusting. In Europe and Asia, it's a non issue. Comics are for everyone, plain and simple. In land of the free, where we supposedly have protected rights surrounding our pursuit of happiness and what we choose to read, especially in Texas, comics are for kids, period. Whether you like it or not. It's the law." - Darick Robertson



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Comic censorship, Only in America...


That's not true. Several arab countries do the very same thing. North Korea too. Before 1989, most countries between Germany and the Pacific Ocean would have done the same thing. I doubt this kind of thing is allowed int he wonderful nation of Singapore, or Burma. This decision is along the lines of thoasands of years of monarchal and papal tradition.

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Very true, was just a saying. You read the atricle, tho? 'S a damn shame, and i agree with Robertson: the medium needs more recognition over here, because shit like that's just sad. He's right, too - most of Europe & many Asian countries, this wouldnt even be an issue. For us to be the land of the free & still persecute like that is archaic.

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I did read the article. Actually, I only read the parts you quoted. I didn't click the link to see if there was more there that you didn't quote, but I did read everythign you had inside your post. My favorite part was:


"I don't care what type of evidence or what type of testimony is out there, use your rationality, use your common sense. Comic books, traditionally what we think of, are for kids. This is in a store directly across from an elementary school and it is put in a medium, in a forum, to directly appeal to kids. That is why we are here, ladies and gentlemen. … We're here to get this off the shelf."


I can't help but think this would have been a winnable case if it were properly defended, bring ing in example from Japan, how a 60 year old man will read Manga in public with no fear of people thinking any less of him. Maybe it was really well defended, after all, we know how Texas juries are. Just the fact that you're on trial means your guilty in Texas.

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Nah, Jax, if a closing argument like that won it was because the jury was full of people who have never read a comic in their life or at least haven't picked one up since they were 12. It was simple an extremely uneducated jury, and I don't really think anything the defense could have done would get past that fact. If any of these people knew a thing about Frank Miller or Garth Ennis they would have known how ridiculous this case was. Jury stupidity, plain and simple.

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