The trails of OZ

* Three editors of a magazine (OZ) were charged on three counts: conspiracy to corrupt public morals, an obscene article, and an indecent object sent through the post. * The edition of the magazine was not a great edition of the magazine. It had descriptions of oral sex and an offensive ‘Rupert the bear’ cartoon strip. * The judge was Michael Argyle Q. C. ; who would impose heavy sentences ‘if the jury convicted. ’ * The jury was drawn from a particular social group (People who owned property); thus none were pre-disposed to the type of journal OZ was. The prosecution had the magazine as its only exhibit and the court was told that it was ‘unacceptable from a family point of view’.
* Dr. Edward De Bono is a better defense witness, as he isn’t intimidated and clever as was Dr. Michael Schofield. The trial goes for sic weeks in the summer of 1971 and the courtroom made for great theater. * The judge was not particularly in favor of the more sexual aspects of the trial and has trouble in coming to terms with slang such as ‘sucking’, ‘blowing’, ‘going down’ and ‘yodeling in the canyon’. Robertson goes on to the point out the conservative nature of Judge Argyle including how he has a glass destroyed because a man who once had a venereal disease drank from it.
Robertson tells how the case ‘became a collision of cultural incomprehension’ and caused division even among the press. Tension was also increased because of the ritual and formality of the Old Baily Court. * The ritual disguised much theatre behind the scenes in a criminal trial here everything else rehearsed to some extent and perjury was rife. Also the judge was required to take the evidence down in longhand and this made him very important.

In this particular case Judge Argyle showed some bias towards witnesses including Ronald Dworkin, an Oxford professor and also Marty Feldman, the comedian, who didn’t take the oath and failed to impress the judge. * The trial was also held under the strictest security with death threats being made against the judge and the court clerk. It turns out the threats were made by the clerk’s wife who was later prosecuted and sentenced to a psychiatric institution. * Towards the end of the trial the defense seems in ‘good shape’ but the sentencing powers of the judge were still a concern.
At times the trial came close to arguing that ‘nothing … could deprave and corrupt’. Studies were used to support this argument that were later found to be misleading. * Later it came down to a battle of semantics over the words indecent and obscene and is the depiction of an indecent act the same as the act itself. It is interesting to note that the charge of conspiring to corrupt public morals carried the penalty of life imprisonment. * Richard Neville used Bob Dylan’s ‘The times are a-Changin’ in his final speech but the tone and body language of the judge was against the defense and he makes this very clear to the jury.
The jury come back for a definition of obscene and then retires again to decide. They find the defendants guilty on the last two counts. * The judge asks if the deportation papers had been served on Neville and he gets an affirmative reply. He remands them for three weeks for ‘medical and psychiatric reports’. The defendants are taken to prison and have their hair cut off. * At this point the British tradition of modernization came to the fore and many came out against the remand. Eventually on the day of sentencing the judge is unmoved by the protests and sentences them all to jail for varying terms.
He also compliments the ‘obscene Publications Squad’ for their good work. * There were protests and an appeal was prepared as was a bail hearing. The appeal judge granted bail seemingly to appease his young daughter and the three were released. At the appeal the Chief judge seemed to be on the side of the prosecution but after lunch he dismissed all charges because he was convinced there was worse pornography out in the streets. * Later the detective in charge of the case said that ‘I’m doing it for out children’. The magazine itself died off and the editors went their separate ways.
The result of the trial was that it opened up the way to eliminate political censorship but also a world of commercial exploration of sex. * The Oz trial also ended these sorts of trials and not many prosecutions are conducted anymore. If they are conducted they only serve to add publicity to the individuals on trial. Two examples that Robertson gives are Johnny Rotten’s ‘Never Mind the Bollocks’ trial and the Spycatcher trial. * Robertson finishes the chapter by telling us about the play that he wrote about the case.
Michael X on death row Robertson begins this chapter in Trinidad where he is visiting Michael X in the Royal Goal. He is trying to save him from the death penalty that he was sentenced to for murder. Robertson seems motivated by the desire to save his client and fight the death row lawyers are not ‘opposed to the punishment of the guilty’ but rather opposed to ‘human sacrifice’. * He finds little help in common law, which had been made by English judges in the past, and the death penalties handed out over the years had been used as ‘bulwarks of the constitution’.
The death penalty was abolished in England in 1964 and judges had wanted the sentence carried out quickly for a variety of reasons. * At the Roal Goal he finds out that Michael X has not been yet executed. Here, on death row, he sees thirsty men in small cells with only a bed and a slop bucket. The lights are kept on permanently and the men were inside the cells for twenty-tree hours a day. Michael himself seemed ‘quiet and self-contained’, while around him raged. * In the prison death warrants are read on Thursdays between two pm and four pm and a condemned prisioner was allowed to order a final mean.
The sentence was carried out on the following Tuesday but they allowed a last visitor on the Monday. Michael tells him that they can hear the trap door open as the man is hung. * During the sentence the official party has a sixty-minute breakfast and the body just hangs there. After this it is taken down and the wrists are slashed, as are the tendons in the feet. The body is then buried in the prison grounds and pragmatically in Jamaica in the vegetable garden. The bodies are not released to families. * Robertson seems convinced that his Michael X is not the murderer of four years ago

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