In a setback for First Amendment rights, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has denied the Petition for Discretionary Review of the 'display of obscenity' conviction of Texas comic retailer Jesus Castillo. This appeal by the attorney for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund was a second appeal; in the first, the Fifth District Court of Appeals upheld Castillo's conviction in a 2-1 decision. The notice of the denial came via postcard, dated October 23rd, to CBLDF executive director Charles Brownstein. It said only, 'On this day, the Appellant's Petition for Discretionary Review has been REFUSED.' The only remaining course of action is an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The CBLDF board of directors is currently voting on whether to proceed with that appeal; a decision is expected by Monday.
The Castillo conviction was for the sale of an adult manga to an adult (see 'CBLDF Appeals Retailer Conviction'). In the original case, the prosecution argued that comics are a children's medium, and that the medium and the proximity of the store to a school meant that the adult material was meant to appeal to children. This was undoubtedly an essential component for obtaining a conviction, since adult Pay Per View channels and hardcore magazines are ubiquitous in almost all U.S. jurisdictions.
The good news, if there is any, is that the six-month jail term for Castillo has been suspended, meaning that it will be served on probation if the conviction cannot be overturned. In addition to serving six months of probation and acquiring a criminal record, Castillo also faces an additional year of probation and a $4,000 fine.
For retailers that carry adult material, this is a chilling event. The retailer in question handled the adult material very responsibly, and there's no allegation that the material was sold to children. Yet Castillo faces a criminal conviction. To donate to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, which supports legal battles on behalf of First Amendment rights, click here. Retailers can also get a signing by comic creator Jim Lee for their store by participating in an upcoming eBay auction for the CBLDF's benefit (see 'Jim Lee Offers Retailers a Benefit Signing').