… Or you may go to jail for exhibition of obscene materials to a minor. In the recent Tennessee case of State v. Cross, M2009-01179-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn.Crim.App. 5-25-2011), the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals upheld a man’s convictions on three counts of exhibition of obscene materials to a minor, for watching the 1991 Sam Pillsbury directed movie, Zandalee, starring Nicholas Cage, Erika Anderson, Marisa Tomei, and Judge Reinhold.
The Defendant watched the movie with his two stepsons, ages twelve and nine, and the neighbor’s daughter, age twelve.
This author has never seen the movie. But it is described as a “romantic tragedy,” a “drama,” and an “erotic thriller.” Allegedly, the plot centers around an affair between the character Zandalee Martin and an old friend of her husband. Movie trailers for the film are available online. There is an original version of the fim rated NC-17 and an edited version rated R.
The Defendant in this case, in addition to more serious charges related to his conduct during the movie, was charged under Tennessee Code Annotated 39-17-911, which prohibits the selling, loaning, or exhibition to a minor of any picture, photograph, drawing, sculpture, motion picture film, video game, computer software game, etc. that depicts nudity, sexual conduct, excess violence, or sado-masochistic abuse and that is harmful to minors. The offense is a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to eleven months and twenty-nine days in jail. It is an affirmative defense if the minor is accompanied by a parent or legal guardian or has the written permission of a parent or legal guardian to view the material.
On direct appeal the Defendant’s attorney challenged the sufficiency of the evidence on these convictions. Though the Court noted that the record contained witness testimony about the content of the movie, and that the jury watched the entire movie, the Court of Criminal Appeals panel did not get to watch it. It was introduced as an exhibit at trial but mysteriously did not make its way into the appellate record. Despite an opportunity to supplement the record, the trial court clerk was unable to produce a copy of the movie.
You can order a copy of the movie for about $4.94 from Amazon. But it is not clear whether the NC-17 version or the R version was introduced into evidence. Regarding the depiction of nudity or sexual conduct, it is probable that both versions included some of that, and there was testimony at trial from the minors involved suggesting they did see nudity and sexual conduct in the film.
The Court of Criminal Appeals determined that they were “compelled to presume that there was sufficient evidence presented to the jury” on the issue. Cross, 10.
If you have questions about what is or is not lawful to sell, loan, or exhibit to minors, contact The Lanzon Firm for more information.