“Not the Cosbys” looked more like America than the jury did

I spent a considerable amount of time last week ultimately being rejected for jury duty and, naturally, my thoughts turned to the state of American Pornography.

I’ve lived in Los Angeles for ten years and have been called up and rejected for jury duty nine times. This saddens me because, like picking up people at LAX, lending money to drummers, and dating a stripper once (but never again), I believe that serving as a “peer” on a jury is a civic duty in this city.

Last week was the furthest I got; I was almost the 12th citizen on what turned out to be an all-white jury deciding the fate of an male African-American accused wife-beater. As I was dismissed from the courtroom I thought, “Even ‘Not the Cosbys XXX’ had more black people.”

Regardless I found the process, which was new to me, fascinating.

A pool of 35 potential jurors was called upstairs to a criminal courtroom at the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center in downtown Los Angeles. As the judge and attorneys for the defense and the State of California asked us questions, it soon became clear that what I originally thought was an unnecessarily large pool might not be sufficient to squeeze out 12 peers.

For one thing, there were no black men in the room aside from the attorney for the State of California and the defendant. The only other black citizens were three women who were all dismissed because they had either given money to battered women’s shelters or indicated that they would side with the alleged victim of spousal battery.

When asked what I did and if I had any connections with the legal community, I replied that I made my living as a writer and have several times written about obscenity cases.

“Do you think that will prevent you from remaining objective in this case?” asked the judge.

“Not at all,” I said.

But what I was not asked (and what I thought it prudent not to volunteer) was the following:

  1. I know several women (as do you, if you’ve read this site for more than a month) who think it a wholesome, essential, and loving part of their marriage to get slapped around occasionally, providing the rules are agreed upon beforehand
  2. I think that there is no taboo for women that equals spousal abuse for men. Does that give men the right to hit women? No, but I do think that some women, knowing the social taboo against domestic abuse, fail to de-escalate their own provocative behavior (this is as politically incorrect as it is true)
  3. I was wondering how two other potential jurors who spoke no English whatsoever had made it this far in the selection process, especially with no translators present

The judge then asked if any of us had made donations to shelters for battered women. I raised my hand, and was again asked if my demonstrated financial sympathy for the plight of battered women would sway my opinion about the accused. I said No.

I thought my answers were reasonable and that I would be selected. To my left, a man reeking of alcohol was excused. To my right, a man who had actually been convicted of spousal battery was given the heave. Behind me, a woman who had been the victim of domestic abuse was let go.

To be honest, I thought the defendant looked like he did it. I base this on the fact that, every now and then he would glance over at the jury and scowl. I thought, “Dude, don’t do that; we’ll think you’re being confrontational.”

But I wasn’t ready to convict him for turning his head; I was prepared to weigh all the evidence.

On two  brief occasions the jury room was empty of all but the potential jurors and the defendant himself as the judge spoke in his chamber with the attorneys, the bailiff, and the stenographer. At that point I was tempted to stage whisper to the defendant, who was maybe 30 feet from me, “DID YOU DO IT??” but I didn’t.

The judge dismissed a few people on financial grounds, and there were a couple of potentials who flat-out said they wanted to be somewhere else, they were not getting paid enough, and that they didn’t think they could be impartial. They were let go. I suppose they wouldn’t have been good jurors, but I hope they got home on roads that weren’t paid for by taxes.

The lawyer for the defense was a Caucasian woman who didn’t seem to have her act together. Her blouse was open to the point that I could see her red bra. As she addressed us, she would giggle every now and then and twirl her shoe on her ankle. She seemed like she was going to try to win this one on charm without feeling the need to be coherent.

California’s attorney, on the other hand, was articulate and efficient. But he was the guy that axed me.

I didn’t know until this point that attorneys could excuse jurors. As each attorney addressed us, it was clear from their hypothetical questions how they would handle their part of the trial. The defense, for example, wondered aloud if people who were being attacked had a right to defend themselves, indicating that the defendant wasn’t the only one throwing punches. The prosecution said, “If I were Shaquille O’Neal and you were 5’2″ and you hit me, would it be right if I hit you back?”

(At this a juror said, “Well, if I hit Shaq, I would just be asking for trouble.” Surprise! That juror was excused, too.)

At the beginning of juror interviews, we were all asked if we knew anyone involved with the trial, whether it be judge, other members of the jury, defendant, defense, or prosecution. We all said No. Later the state prosecutor asked me a question.

“If it were a crime to park more than 18 inches from the curb, and your mother was on trial for parking an infinitesimal amount over 18 inches from the curb, would you find her guilty?”

I think his point was would I follow the law regardless of what I might have seen as the extenuating circumstances, but hadn’t the judge just asked us all if we were related to anyone in the court?

“Sorry, but the question is moot if we’ve just been informed by the judge that we couldn’t be related to someone involved in the trial.”

I swear I was not trying to be ornery, but I thought it just as likely that, had I answered the question, I’d be dismissed for perjury. Had it been all right for me to sit in judgment of my mother, though, I would have convicted her. She would have done the same for me.

When the next round of dismissals was called, however, I was sent packing. I was the last one to go and, having had a long time to get to know everyone else in the room, I knew that the defendant didn’t get a jury of his peers.

He got several white retirees, all but one of them female, a male Hispanic art student, and two female daycare teachers, one in her 20s and the other in her 60s. I walked to the elevators, disappointed that I didn’t get a chance to serve.

One of the dismissed African-American ladies waited with me. Up to that point I had observed the rule of not talking with the other jurors about the case, but neither of us was a juror now.

“Whether he did it or not, he didn’t get a jury of his peers,” I said.

“That’s because black men never show up for jury duty,” she said.

I didn’t know how to respond to that. To have said “Awesome!” would have been insensitive, I think.

But I realized, as I used my early lunch break to tour Los Angeles’ City Hall, that as much as I’d had a problem with the large percentage of whiteys in X-Play’s “Not the Cosbys XXX,” that even that cracker-rich cast would have given our accused wife-beater a better chance of a representative jury.

And Sarah Vandella was in it.

Previously on Porn Valley Observed: We Shall Overcome (on your face); Ass Cube—The “Friday” parody; Not the Cosbys XXX; Nate Glass—The Last Man Working in Porn

About Gram the Man 4399 Articles
Gram Ponante is America's Beloved Porn Journalist


  1. Wow – great read. It’s been a few years since I’ve been on a jury (served twice, but called at least four times since I hit nineteen), but I didn’t enjoy the experience simply because I didn’t want to be there (and the second time I served, I tried my level best, without being belligerent or lying, to get kicked – it didn’t work).

    There are a lot of truths above, though, and that’s for sure. Oh, and your link from Twitter had a rather invasive Amazon.com page covering about a fifth of the screen, and it wouldn’t go away.

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