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First Amendment Library:
Robert Eugene Smith


This case presents the question, not fully answered in Hamling v. United States, 418 U. S. 87 (1974), whether the *189 standards announced in Miller v. California, 413 U. S. 15 (1973), are to be applied retroactively to the potential detriment of a defendant in a criminal case. We granted certiorari, 424 U. S. 942 (1976), to resolve a conflict in the Circuits.[1]


Petitioner was convicted of selling material which had been judicially declared obscene. At his trial he was not permitted to litigate the obscenity vel non of the publication which was the basis of his prosecution, even though he had not been a party to the earlier civil adjudication in which it was held obscene. We granted certiorari, 422 U. S. 1040 (1975), to consider whether this procedure comported with our decisions delineating the safeguards which must attend attempts by the States to prohibit dissemination of expression asserted to be protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments against such interference. We reverse.


Petitioners are two Atlanta, Georgia, movie theaters and their owners and managers, operating in the *51 style of "adult" theaters. On December 28, 1970, respondents, the local state district attorney and the solicitor for the local state trial court, filed civil complaints in that court alleging that petitioners were exhibiting to the public for paid admission two allegedly obscene films, contrary to Georgia Code Ann. § 26-2101.[1] The two films in question, "Magic Mirror" and "It All Comes Out in the End," depict sexual conduct characterized *52 by the Georgia Supreme Court as "hard core pornography" leaving "little to the imagination."Respondents' complaints, made on behalf of the State of Georgia, demanded that the two films be declared obscene and that petitioners be enjoined from exhibiting the films. The exhibition of the films was not enjoined, but a temporary injunction was granted ex parte by the local trial court, restraining petitioners from destroying the films or removing them from the jurisdiction. Petitioners were further ordered to have one print each of the films in court on January 13, 1971, together with the proper viewing equipment.