Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Michigan court addresses limited context test, image cropping

In United States v. Stewart, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 32550 (E.D. Mich. 2012), the defendant sought a new trial after being convicted of transporting child pornography. Finding no plain error in the defendant's six arguments, the motion was denied.

The closest argument was that images were improperly admitted in violation of the limited context test. "The Sixth Circuit's limited context test allows additional images only of the same victims and explicitly excludes images of other victims." These additional images (not "accused" images) are used to show "under what circumstances the photographs were taken ... and can help them resolve close judgment calls about whether an image inadvertently focuses on a child's genitalia, or whether it is intended to elicit a sexual response in the viewer." Most - if not all - of the images presented in Stewart under this rule did not depict the same children as the accused images. However, the court found that because the precedent applied to images "that could amount to 'a separate criminal act,'" there was no plain error.

The court also considered cropping of the images. The defendant argued that because the full images would not have been considered lascivious, a cropped image of the genitals should not be as well. The court, however, held that the jury could infer an intended sexual response because of the cropping. Further, the First Amendment does not protect the cropping, despite the fact that "no child abuse or exploitation occurred."


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