People v. Nelson

410 N.E.2d 476, 88 Ill. App. 3d 196, 43 Ill. Dec. 476 (1980)

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People v. Nelson

Illinois Appellate Court
410 N.E.2d 476, 88 Ill. App. 3d 196, 43 Ill. Dec. 476 (1980)

Facts

A jury found Timothy Nelson (defendant) guilty of criminal obscenity. Nelson was sentenced to 45 days’ incarceration and assessed a $1,000 fine. Nelson appealed, citing as prejudicial error the trial court’s ruling that a survey assessing the attitudes of Illinois residents regarding what constituted obscenity and a defense expert’s analysis of the results were inadmissible. Regarding criminal obscenity, Illinois’s criminal code indicated that evidence that showed the acceptability, if any, of the subject material was admissible. During the defense’s presentation, the prosecution conducted a voir dire examination of Nelson’s expert witness, Dr. Roderick Bell, to determine whether both the survey results and Bell’s analysis of the results were admissible. Bell had conducted a statewide survey, interviewing 770 Illinois residents. Interviewees were asked questions regarding whether they thought it was acceptable for adults to view or buy depictions of actual or pretended sexual conduct in magazines or movies, for example. The answers to each question showed that 48 to 67.4 percent of interviewees believed that depictions of such conduct were acceptable if the depictions were limited to adults. Bell explained, however, that the results were insufficient to state that Illinois residents had reached a consensus on sexually explicit depictions because a consensus required 75 percent of interviewees to agree on an issue. Thus, Bell determined that there was no consensus regarding depictions of the sexual conduct listed in the questions. Based on his analysis of the survey results, Bell determined that no community standard regarding the acceptability of sexually explicit depictions existed in Illinois. The prosecution objected to the admission of Bell’s proffered analysis because the survey did not show a community standard and, therefore, Bell’s testimony, based on an inconclusive survey, intruded onto the jury’s territory. There was no objection to the survey based on its methodology or partiality. However, the trial court held that both the survey results and Bell’s proffered analysis were inadmissible on the ground that they intruded onto the jury’s territory.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Seidenfeld, J.)

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