Official Press Release
The case against Gordon Lee took another in an ongoing series of bizarre turns this afternoon when statements made by State prosecutor John Tully during opening arguments led to a mistrial.
Lee and his legal team, paid for by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, appeared in court this morning for jury selection and returned in the afternoon to begin the actual trial. Before the jury was brought in to begin the trial, lead counsel Alan Begner argued an oral motion in limine asking the judge to instruct prosecutors that they could not admit statements from their witnesses alluding to Lee's character and previous legal actions Lee has been party to. Prosecutors assured the court that they had instructed their witnesses not to address Lee's previous conviction for selling adult comics to an adult. Then during opening statements in front of the jury, prosecutor Tully said witnesses will testify that Gordon was defensive and that Gordon had told police, "I've been through this before," a clear reversal of his earlier statement to the judge that prosecutors would not be entering such statements into the record.
When Tully made his statement, defense counsel stared at each other in disbelief before Begner leapt up to demand a mistrial. Judge Larry Salmon put his head in his hands and called a 15 minute recess.
Upon returning to the courtroom, as a result of Tully's statement, Salmon declared a mistrial, because the statements alluding to the prior incident contaminated the jury beyond repair for a fair trial.
"This is a victory, but we wish it was over," said CBLDF lead counsel Alan Begner. "We believe that prosecutors induced this mistrial on purpose, because we had a jury that looked more defense oriented. We're prepared to quickly file a motion to argue that no new trial should be scheduled because this mistrial was intentional and constitutes prosecutorial misconduct."
Begner adds, "Time and again we've been here and have been told to go home because of the prosecutors' actions. Meanwhile, it's Gordon who suffers. It's been three years since this case began, and for three years Gordon has had this hanging over his head. Today his good name is still not cleared."
Lee's trial comes after three years of legal action arising from the Halloween 2004 distribution of Alternative Comics #2, a Free Comic Book Day sampler which featured an excerpt from the critically acclaimed graphic novel The Salon that depicted Pablo Picasso in the nude, and was allegedly handed to a minor. The CBLDF has spent over $80,000 on Lee's defense since taking the case in early 2005, and expects costs to reach six figures by the end of the trial. The case has been ready for trial three times – the first, in April of 2006, when prosecutors dismissed and re-filed the charges because their facts were wrong; the second last August when the judge's illness led to a rescheduling; and today when statements made by the prosecutor led to a mistrial.
"Never in the Fund's history have we seen prosecutorial conduct of this nature," says CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein. "We're dumbfounded by prosecutors assuring the court that they weren't going to do something, and then doing exactly that thing five minutes later. Every step of the way they have been adding further expense to Lee's defense, first by changing their facts, then by entering new indictment after new indictment, and today by contaminating the jury. Nobody, especially a small retailer, can bear this kind of expense on their own. Today's action is clear evidence of why the Fund needs to be around to protect comics."
The next step for the case is uncertain, but could see trial again in 2008.
I'm writing you this letter while the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund's legalteam is in court in Rome, GA defending Gordon Lee. For the last 3 years,Gordon has been put through a legal wringer by Rome's prosecutors, who aretrying to send him to jail for two years because of a comic book aboutPicasso. Thank goodness for the CBLDF, who got Gordon the best lawyers inthe state and picked up the bill – which is likely to reach $100,000 by thetime this is all done.
Win or lose, his case shows why it's important that we support the CBLDF.For 20 years, the Fund has been going to court to defend retailers andcreators who are singled out by prosecutors because of comics. They arrangeand pay for the best counsel, an expense that would bankrupt most smallretailers and cartoonists. Because of the Fund, we don't need to back downwhen faced with bullying prosecutions like the one against Gordon. Becauseof the support of people like you and me, the Fund is able to stand up andfight for comics.
To make sure that they have the resources to pay for Gordon's case and takeon any new threats in 2008, I'm donating a piece of original art I made forthe mini-series Shazam: The Monster Society of Evil. This large image of theCaptain Marvel Family was spread over the backs of all four issues of theoriginal series and fit together to make a puzzle, and was used again on thegiant sized fold out dust jacket that came with the Deluxe Hard Covercollection. I rarely part with my original art, but in this case, I knowthat it's worth doing. It is my sincere hope that this donation can offsetsome of the Fund's expenses as we fight for our right to draw and read whatwe want.
Please join me in supporting the Fund by taking this opportunity to make atax-deductible donation towards their work. There are lots of ways to dothis - you can sign up for membership, donate a piece of artwork or a rarecomic book from your collection, or buy premiums from their website. Andcash donations are always appreciated.
If you're one of my fellow creators or publishers, you can also donate someof your time to the Fund by signing for them at conventions and events,donating signed copies of your work, or something even more creative. Ifyou're a retailer, why not host a CBLDF fundraiser at your store or sign upfor retail membership?
However you decide to help, now is the time. The Fund is watching out forcomics. We need to stand behind them with our financial support so they cankeep doing their important work. Please support the Fund today.
HOW YOU CAN HELP:
Make A Donation
Your cash donation to the CBLDF goes the furthest towards paying off ourlegal bills. Until November 22, all cash donations of $30 or better willearn you a copy of an all-new signed CBLDF Bone print by Jeff Smith. Printswill be available on January 1, but you can reserve yours today, and supportthe cause at this urgent time. Visit http://cbldf.safeshopper.com/12/cat12htm?479 to make a donation today.
Free Shipping on Premiums
To build up support for Gordon's trial, for a limited time, the Fund isoffering premiums previously only available at conventions. Signed graphicnovels, comics and exclusive CBLDF prints by creators such as Frank Miller,Jeff Smith, Brian K Vaughan, Brad Meltzer, Robert Kirkman, Mike Mignola,Matt Wagner, Jack Davis, Larry Marder, Terry Moore, Frank Cho and many moreare available at various donation levels.
If your premium donation exceeds $50, you will receive free shipping on yourorder until December 15, just in time for the perfect gift for that specialcomic fan in everyone's life. Visit www.cbldf.com to see all of what'savailable.