Weirdness comes calling in the Kansas City trial of a San Francisco acid lover.

Adventures in Wonderland 

Weirdness comes calling in the Kansas City trial of a San Francisco acid lover.

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"Do you know what Mark McCloud did with the blotter paper he was so impressed with?" Weinberg asked Williams in cross-examination. The white-haired attorney then presented to the court the same sheet of World Cup blotter paper given to McCloud seven years before. Only now it was framed.

What began as a trial of a suspected drug dealer quickly became a discussion of blotter art's validity; if McCloud and company could persuade the Kansas City jury that there really is an interest in LSD art, perhaps they would win. And with a courtroom full of untreated blotter paper, Oliver's task of focusing on drug evidence became increasingly difficult as the trial progressed.

Jurors heard testimony that ran the gamut of art appreciation, from DEA agent Bill Carroll's inability to identify a Salvador Dali painting on blotter paper to New York art critic Carlo McCormick's unbending contention that sometimes the form and purpose of an art piece transcends the image itself. When asked by Oliver whether perforated blotter paper bearing a drawing of Mickey Mouse or the FBI logo actually could have artistic value, the aggressive McCormick didn't hesitate: "That would be considered art all throughout the art world, sir." Considering that Andy Warhol became an icon by replicating, well, icons, McCormick's answer may have rung true to some jurors.

Defense witness Phillip Cushway, owner of the rock and roll memorabilia shop Artrock in San Francisco, testified that he had purchased for resale probably as many as 12,000 sheets from McCloud in the past decade. In Cushway's catalog, regular prints list at $35, and prints signed by acid gurus Timothy Leary and Ken Kesey go for as much as $650.

On cross-examination, Oliver laid into Cushway over the witness' 1991 marijuana conviction and an Artrock business report that showed sales in the hundreds (not thousands) of blotter paper. A confused Cushway struggled to explain that exact records were difficult to provide from the company's precomputer years. Oliver's point was that McCloud's massive stock of blotter paper suggested that the defendant not only sold untreated prints in the retail art market but also sold treated LSD sheets in the drug market.

Later, Oliver challenged the common sense of another defense witness -- San Francisco lawyer Alan Caplan -- who purchased McCloud's prints to distribute "as art" through his wife's printing business. If someone purchased a hundred sheets of blotter paper, Oliver asked, "wouldn't it raise the hackles on the back of your neck?"

The prosecutor implied that a person buying large quantities of blotter paper probably intended to dose it and sell it as edible art. In other words, how do you know you're not selling the paper to drug dealers? That line of questioning pleased the McCloud team, which happily embraced Oliver's point that when psychedelic-hungry Americans munch on tabs of acid, the paper may have originated with Mark McCloud. But the prosecutor could not establish where the LSD came from.

"How does [the evidence] prove anything other than Mark McCloud distributed untreated blotter art?" Weinberg asked the jury in his closing argument.

"This man's no art dealer," Oliver countered, before making an assertion he had not proven. "This man sells blotter paper with and without LSD."

In an already exotic trial, these closing statements brought on the sort of entertaining antics one might expect in a high school mock trial. At one point, Weinberg used the three-and-a-half-foot-tall perforating board, displayed directly in front of the jury, as a stand for an enlarged copy of the jury's "reasonable doubt" instruction.

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