The Supreme Court ruled today that states may use anti-racketeering laws to fight pornography, but it invoked free-speech rights to ban the states from seizing the contents of adult bookstores before trial.
The justices threw out an obscenity conviction against a Ft. Wayne, Ind., bookstore because authorities seized its contents before trial. But by a 6-3 vote, the justices said prosecutors still may use the state's anti-racketeering law to renew the obscenity case.
Justice Byron R. White, writing for the court, said the Constitution's free-speech protections do not bar states from using alleged acts of obscenity as a basis for an anti-racketeering law.
Indiana's Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act is patterned after a much-used federal act. States are using such laws with increasing frequency as a powerful new weapon to fight obscenity and organized crime.
White said the Indiana law went too far in permitting prosecutors to padlock adult bookstores before obscenity trials.
In a dissenting opinion, Justices John Paul Stevens, William J. Brennan and Thurgood Marshall said the obscenity charges against Ft. Wayne Books Inc. should be thrown out.
In other matters acted on today the court:
--Refused to reinstate the pandering conviction of Hollywood producer Harold Freeman for hiring actors to perform sex acts in a film. The California Supreme Court threw out Freeman's conviction last Aug. 25, ruling that California's pandering law should not have been applied to him. Freeman was not charged with any violation of the state's obscenity laws, and the movie was not formally judged to be obscene.
--Rejected the appeals of California death row inmates Billy Ray Hamilton and Andre Burton. Hamilton was found guilty of gunning down three employees of a Fresno grocery store on Sept. 5, 1980--six days after his release from Folsom Prison. Burton was convicted in Los Angeles County five years ago of killing and robbing the mother of a convenience store owner after she got rolls of coins from a bank.