Texas jury: Photo books by Sturges, Mann aren’t child pornography

Wednesday, May 6, 1998

Prosecutors in Travis County, Texas, failed to persuade a jury that art books by Sally Mann and Jock Sturges are child pornography.

The jury rendered its verdict last week in the trial of Richard Roise, who was charged with five counts of possessing child pornography. Prosecutors brought at least one of the charges because officials found the photography books Immediate Family by Sally Mann and Radiant Identities by Jock Sturges in Roise's motel room last June.

Although the jurors convicted Roise for certain pictures in a photo album, they refused to convict him for the possession of the books by Mann and Sturges.

Juror Rosemary Lindauer told The Austin American Statesman: “I thought they were great art; I thought they were beautiful books. I would have them in my home.”

However, another unidentified juror told the paper that the books were “very, very borderline.”

The debate over whether the works of Mann and Sturges goes far beyond Travis County. The anti-pornography group Focus on the Family has orchestrated a nationwide protest of Sturges' books.

A grand jury in Alabama recently indicted Barnes & Noble Booksellers for selling books by Sturges and Mann. Last November, a grand jury in Williamson County, Tenn., also indicted Barnes and Noble store under a “harmful-to-minors” law for displaying two photography books Jock Sturges.

However, a grand jury in Wichita, Kan., last week refused to indict a local bookstore for selling books by Sturges.

Chris Finan, president of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, said: “Taken together with the grand jury's decision in Wichita, the jury's decision in Texas is testimony loud and clear that these books are not child pornography and have serious artistic value.”

Marjorie Heins of the ACLU, a national expert on art censorship issues, also applauded the jury's decision with respect to the books by Mann and Sturges.

“It sounds like the jury in Texas had the good sense and respect for constitutional rights that the prosecutors did not have, because this person should never have been criminally indicted for possessing art books that have serious artistic value,” she said.