Defense Attorney In Copyright Infringement Trial Would Like Your Thoughts On Pot, Turtlenecks

Posted by on July 29, 2009

One month after the Jammie Thomas-Rasset was ordered by the court to pay nearly $2 million in fines to Capitol, another major RIAA copyright case has begun in Boston, and this one’s already wacky.

While the Thomas-Rasset case managed to select its jury in an hour and a half, the defense for Boston University graduate student Joel Tenenbaum spent the day asking potential jurors weird non sequiturs:

Nearly the entire day was consumed with what Gertner termed “one very long, very tortured day of jury selection.”

The questions from Tenenbaum’s lead counsel, Harvard Law School professor Charles Nesson, were, to no one’s surprise… not so conventional. Nesson began his questioning of many of them by asking whether they were “offended” by his decision to wear a Steve Jobs-esque black turtleneck (with blazer) in lieu of a business suit. “I’m a teacher in my normal life,” explained Nesson. “This is what I wear every day.”

Nesson also questioned potential jurors about their views on marijuana decriminalization, even asking one woman how she would feel if she heard during the trial about Nesson’s own (admitted) pot-smoking. She said she didn’t mind, though Judge Gertner quickly made clear that the trial would not delve into that subject.

I’m not sure about Massachusetts, but in many states each side is allowed to excuse a certain number of jurors without giving a reason. I’m guessing Nesson isn’t a total nut, and he is extrapolating how sympathetic a juror would be in a copyright infringement case based on their views on pot and turtlenecks. And that’s about as far as I can figure this one out.

The case itself should be open and shut, as Tenenbaum has repeatedly admitted, including under oath in two days of deposition, that he used KaZaa to download and share songs. Additionally, the labels have a large chunk of evidence and the judge already rejected a “fair use” defense from Tenenbaum’s council. The RIAA will be paid its damages, it’s just a question of how much – and that’s why the jury selection is so crucial.

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