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Jenkins v. Georgia

Citation. 22 Ill.546 U.S. 1214, 126 S. Ct. 1457, 164 L. Ed. 2d 132 (2006)
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Brief Fact Summary.

Appellant Jenkins was indicted, and later convicted by jury trial, for showing the movie “Carnal Knowledge.” The Supreme Court of Georgia affirmed this conviction, and Appellant requested a writ of certiorari arguing that the movie is not obscene.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

A jury does not have unbridled discretion to determine what material is sexually offensive. In order to be obscene under Miller, the material needs to appeal to the prurient interest, and be patently offensive by showing “hardcore” sexual conduct.


Appellant is the manager of a movie theater in Albany, Georgia. In March 1972 he showed a movie at his theater titled “Carnal Knowledge.” Appellant was indicted and later convicted of the crime of distributing obscene material. The Supreme Court of Georgia later affirmed Appellant’s conviction.


Is Appellant’s showing of the film “Carnal Knowledge” a public portrayal of hardcore sexual conduct for its own sake and for commercial gain?


No. The film is not, as a matter of constitutional law, found to depict sexually conduct in a patently offensive way, and therefore does not fall outside of the protections offered by the First and Fourteenth Amendment as being obscene. While there are occasionally scenes containing nudity, nudity itself is not enough to make materially legally obscene under the Miller standards. In order to be obscene under the Miller standards the material needs to depict sexual conduct in a patently offensive way. Furthermore juries do not have unbridled discretion in determining what is patently offensive. In order to be subject to prosecution, the obscene materials must depict or describe patently offensive “hardcore” sexual conduct.
Concurrence. Wants to see the Court extricate itself from case-by-case determinations of obscenity. With this holding, and the holdings in Miller and Paris Adult Theater I, appellate courts are required to review independently the constitutional fact of obscenity. In fact in this case the fact that the Court was required to view the movie in question to make a determination shows this result is judicially inefficient.


This case clears up the confusion over obscenity that was left after the Miller decision. This case limits the impact of the jury on determining what is obscene, and declares that sexual obscene material is material that is patently offensive “hardcore” conduct. The Court in this case gives First and Fourteenth Amendment protection to material that does not meet this standard, even though some may consider it sexually obscene. In order to completely understand this decision, it is imperative to read Miller, because without Miller this case is almost impossible to understand. One result of these cases is that the material charged to be obscene must be determined on a case-by-case analysis, and there seems to be no clear cut rule as to what can be obscene. For what can be obscene in one State might not be obscene in another state. The Court in this case does provide one with a little direction, at least carving out what cannot be considered obscene.

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