Kansas City Grand Jurors to Set Obscenity Standard

Anne Winter
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In an effort by a local conservative group to rid the area of adult entertainment, prosecutors have begun selecting grand juries that could set the local standard for what material is and is not obscene.

The National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families in mid-May delivered county prosecutors with several petitions seeking grand jury investigations of 32 adult businesses in Kansas and Missouri.

Prosecutors would not confirm whether investigations already have begun.

First amendment lawyer Lawrence Walters told XBIZ that selecting grand juries likely is the first step in the indictment process. Though the grand jury's determination alone does not mean much legally, he said, the government could use it in future obscenity hearings — taking the heat off of itself and arguing that it was community members who decided the material was obscene, not the government.

"Like the old saying goes," Walters said, "You can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich. Grand juries typically indict whatever the prosecution tells them to indict because there is no other side presented."

In order for grand jury members to determine that the adult material in question is in fact obscene, they must be shown "the entire work" — requiring them to view adult movies and examine adult novelties.

Walters said the grand juries' focus will be on whether the materials meet the threshold for obscenity — whether the materials depict or describe sexual activity — and there is little adult material that would be excluded from that classification.

"If [prosecutors] are bringing these [materials] to a grand jury," Walters said, "then they are almost certainly going to be indicted. There are going to be trials, there are going to be cases, and whoever is the target of the grand jury hearings needs to be prepared for a battle."