Movie Buffs trial lawyers debate pornography law



    The defense and prosecuting attorneys for the Movie Buffs trial debated on Friday whether morality is an issue in determining pornography laws.

    The debate between defense attorney, Randy Spencer, and co-prosecuting attorney, Laura Cabanilla, was entitled “Pornography in Utah County: When Freedom of Speech Clashes with Community Standards of Morality.”

    Spencer defended Larry Warren Peterman, the manager of Movie Buffs in Lehi, in two trials. Peterman was charged with distributing pornographic materials but was acquitted in March.

    “We are here to address the law not debate over morality,” Spencer said.

    He said the law is the issue and the law is determined by what is accepted in the community.

    Spencer said morality was never an issue. The issue, he said, was of freedom and fairness of operation by the government.

    Cabanilla said she disagreed that morality never is or was an issue.

    “Morality is an issue and is reflected by the community standard,” Cabanilla said.

    The first amendment does not protect obscenity, but the court still has to decide whether the material in question is considered obscene, Cabanilla said.

    “Whether the store had obscenity or not, rather than appealing to emotions of the jury, Spencer should have argued material wasn’t obscene using the Miller Test,” Cabanilla said.

    The Movie Buffs case applied the Miller Test that helps define pornography. The first point in the test was debated: whether the average person, applying contemporary community standards would find the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest.

    “My client was not guilty,” Spencer said.

    He said even if his client had been selling pornographic materials in a highly dominant Latter-day Saint community, they should be accepting. He said since many Latter-day Saints have pioneer roots they need to be tolerant of others because the government wasn’t totally tolerant with the early pioneers.

    “The community has to react. They shouldn’t tolerate something they find objectionable,” said Sheila Hewett, a Utah county resident. “The reason Spencer won the case is because he convinced the court that the community doesn’t care.”

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