Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Court orders Black Lace Book Returned to Prisoner

The Silver Crown by Mathilde Madden includes features that will be familiar to many readers of paranormal fiction.  Kick-ass heroines, werewolves and plenty of sex.

A California Prison deemed that there was too much violence and sex in it to allow prisoners to have access to it. The pointed out that the book is described as "erotic romance", as if this were proof enough in itself. They also claimed that it was obscene and incited violence (presumably against the resident population of werewolves). And so Andres Martinez had his copy confiscated as contraband.

However the court ruled that the violence depicted "is not shocking or gory" and the sex is "always consensual" and "between consenting adults". The ruling goes on to say that the relevant law does not ban "sexually explicit conduct" so long as it is not "obscene". To be obscene it needs to both appeal to prurient interest and lack literary value.

It took three denied cases and appeals for Mr. Marinez's protest to reach a court that could consider his First Amendment rights and not just the prison regulations.  Professor Peter Orner provided evidence that the Silver Crown had literary merit. The court agreed, making several points including that the inclusion of werewolves and/or sex and/or having escapist fantasy qualities does not prevent a book from having literary merit.

Based on this, the lack of obscene material, and the presence of comparable material in the library the court ruled that seizing the book was "arbitrary and capricious."

See the full ruling here.

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