484 F.2d 1149 (5th Cir. 1973), Sept. 12, 1973, United States v. Thevis

Docket Nº:Sept. 12, 1973.
Citation:484 F.2d 1149
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Michael G. THEVIS and Peachtree News Company, Inc., Defendants-Appellants. No. 71-2614. Rehearing and Rehearing En Banc
Case Date:November 15, 1973
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

Page 1149

484 F.2d 1149 (5th Cir. 1973)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,


Michael G. THEVIS and Peachtree News Company, Inc., Defendants-Appellants.

No. 71-2614.

Rehearing and Rehearing En Banc

Sept. 12, 1973.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit.

November 15, 1973

Denied Nov. 15, 1973.

Page 1150

Robert E. Smith, Atlanta, Ga., Norman J. Abood, Jacksonville, Fla., for defendants-appellants.

John L. Briggs, U.S. Atty., Jacksonville, Fla., Richard C. Owens, Atty., U.S. Dept. of Justice, Washington, D. C., for plaintiff-appellee.

Before JOHN R. BROWN, Chief Judge, and BELL and SIMPSON, Circuit Judges.

BELL, Circuit Judge.

Appellants Thevis and Peachtree News Company, Inc. were charged in a twelve-count indictment with transporting obscene material by common carrier in interstate commerce, in violation of 18 U.S.C.A. § 1462. 1 Jury trial was

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waived. The subject matter of each count was a particular magazine and appellants were convicted on each of the counts. The district court, 329 F.Supp. 265, found that the material in question, i. e., each magazine, was obscene under the three-pronged test of Memoirs. 2 A term of six months imprisonment and five years probation was imposed on Thevis under each count, with the sentences to be served concurrently. In addition, fines were imposed on each defendant with respect to each count. This appeal followed. We affirm with respect to six counts and reverse as to six.

In urging reversal, appellants originally presented five arguments to this court. These were: (1) that the constitutional test for obscenity must focus on whether "pandering" is involved in the distribution of challenged material, and on whether the material is distributed to minors or unwilling adults, cf. Redrup v. New York, 1967, 386 U.S. 767, 87 S.Ct. 1414, 18 L.Ed.2d 515; (2) that the indictment was unconstitutionally vague in that it merely tracked the statutory language without specifying the elements constituting "obscenity"; (3) that it was necessary for the government to prove that the appellants had transported the magazines knowing that they were obscene in the constitutional sense; (4) that 18 U.S.C.A. § 1462 is void for overbreadth in that it reaches transportation of obscene material for private as well as commercial use; and (5) that the prosecution failed to prove by competent evidence that the magazine fell outside the protection of the Memoirs standard. We understand appellants' fifth assignment of error to include two distinguishable elements: first, that the prosecution failed to produce sufficient expert testimony; and second, that the evidence, of whatever nature, was insufficient to support the lower court's finding on the issue of obscenity vel non. We will treat these two elements as separate assignments of error.

Subsequent to oral argument, the Supreme Court announced five opinions in which a majority of that Court agreed on concrete guidelines to isolate materials depicting or describing "patently offensive 'hard core' sexual conduct" from expression protected by the First Amendment. Miller v. California, 1973, 413 U.S. 15, 27, 93 S.Ct. 2607, 2616, 37 L.Ed.2d 419, 432; Paris Adult Theatre I v. Slaton, 1973, 413 U.S. 49, 93 S.Ct. 2628, 37 L.Ed.2d 446; United States v. Orito, 1973, 413 U.S. 139, 93 S.Ct. 2674, 37 L.Ed.2d 513; Kaplan v. California, 1973, 413 U.S. 115, 93 S.Ct. 2680, 37 L.Ed.2d 492; United States v. 12 200-Ft. Reels of Super 8 mm Film, 1973, 413 U.S. 123, 93 S.Ct. 2665, 37 L.Ed.2d 500.

In light of these opinions, appellant has filed a supplemental brief urging that the Memoirs standard can no longer be used for testing obscenity. Further, in this brief it is argued that the Miller standard is also inapplicable, for two reasons: (1) that application of the new standard would be violative of the Ex Post Facto clause of Article I, § 9, United States Constitution; and (2) that in any case the material in question would be protected under Miller because 18 U. S.C.A. § 1462, as written or authoritatively construed, does not specifically define that sexual conduct whose depiction or description is thereby regulated. In essence, appellants are contending, on the authority of Miller, that the Supreme Court has eliminated all obscenity laws that would have been otherwise applicable to transactions occurring prior to June 21, 1973, and that the Court has

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also eliminated all laws controlling obscenity after that date, save as legislatures enact or courts construe statutes to meet the Miller requirements. In sum, claim the appellants, we are without power to test the materials for obscenity under any standard. We reject this broad contention. We do not perceive that the Supreme Court, either deliberately or unwittingly, has stripped the nation of laws against obscenity in any such manner.

For reasons to be discussed in Part II of this opinion, we hold that the twelve magazines are to be tested for obscenity under both standards, with the appellants in every instance to receive the benefit of the most favorable standard. We reserve the issue of obscenity vel non, under both standards, for Part III. In Part I we shall consider appellants' first five original assignments of error.


Appellants' first assignment of error is that the materials in question should not be tested under a standard as restrictive of pornography 3 as Memoirs. Rather they urge a standard arguably suggested in Redrup v. New York, supra, requiring for a finding of obscenity that the materials be distributed to nonconsenting adults, to juveniles, or generally in a "pandering" manner. We consider this argument to have been completely foreclosed by the Supreme Court's statement, in Miller, that the Memoirs standard was correctly viewed as the limit on state prosecution prior to Miller, 413 U.S. at 30, 93 S.Ct. at 2618, 37 L.Ed.2d at 435. We also find entirely spurious the argument that there was such a marked departure in Redrup from the basic assumption of Memoirs, that the nature of the material and not the manner of its distribution is determinative of obscenity. In the Redrup per curiam opinion, the Court specifically declined to consider the effect of the characteristics of the method of distributing pornographic materials. Finally, we note that the origin of the "pandering" concept is Ginzburg v. United States, 1966, 383 U.S. 463, 86 S.Ct. 942, 16 L.Ed.2d 31, and that pandering in that case was specifically treated merely as an indicator of whether the material itself appealed to prurient interests and was utterly without redeeming social value. See Ginzburg, 383 U.S. at 467-476, 86 S.Ct. 942.

Appellants' second argument is that the indictment, which tracked the wording of 18 U.S.C.A. § 1462, must be dismissed for failure to specify the elements of obscenity. We do not agree. The general rule, stated by this court, is that:

"An indictment which follows the language of the statute is ordinarily sufficient unless the statute omits an essential element of the offense."

United States v. Farabee, 5 Cir., 1969, 411 F.2d 1210, 1211; Downing v. United States, 5 Cir., 1965, 348 F.2d 594, 599. See also Esperti v. United States, 5 Cir., 1969, 406 F.2d 148; Bland v. United States, 5 Cir., 1962, 299 F.2d 105. The statute here does not omit any essential element of the offense for which appellants have been convicted. The term "obscene" as used in the statute is a legal term of art, not merely a generic or descriptive term. The term has been the subject of much...

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