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.

Page 6 of 7

Then, holding all the actual LSD presented by the government in his right hand (seized from busts around the country), Weinberg made a grand sweeping gesture toward the stacks of blotter paper found in McCloud's home.

"That would fill a small room," he said. "This wouldn't fill a soup bowl.... That is a metaphor for the prosecution's whole case."

Before he finished, Weinberg made certain to address the cultural issue, the one unpredictable element of the trial: how the heartland jury would react to a San Francisco artist whose defense was that he operated a gallery paying tribute to LSD.

"Probably the one thing the evidence proves beyond a reasonable doubt," Weinberg said, "is that [Mark McCloud] lives a very different life than you."

In his rebuttal, Oliver wielded the "Welcome drug dealers come in back room" sign to remind jurors just how different. Then he coined a term for McCloud's argument and instructed them not to buy into it.

"This is the paper defense: 'It's just paper. I'm just different,'" was Oliver's interpretation.

For ten and a half hours, the jury considered the paper defense, and although there was no more testimony from unlucky secret agents or combative art critics, the case of United States v. Mark McCloud continued in its peculiarity even as both sides awaited the decision.

Once, the jury sent a question to Judge Fenner on a sheet of paper folded to the size of a quarter -- or a couple of hits of acid. At one point, Oliver and Weinberg bickered over what constituted a "representative" collection of framed art for the jurors to view. After they reached a compromise, Susan Matross, Weinberg's assistant, made one last addition -- a framed sheet displaying Saturday Night Live's tragic claymation hero, Mr. Bill.

"She likes Mr. Bill," Weinberg informed an annoyed Oliver. "She's a big Mr. Bill fan."

Later, after Fenner had dealt with another query from the deliberation room and returned to his chambers, the sounds of psychedelic-era Beatles rose from the prosecutor's laptop. With enough LSD paraphernalia in evidence to (if dosed) send the population of California soaring into the fourth dimension, the peaceful 1967 anthem "All You Need Is Love" played softly. Had Oliver's contraband CD been Jefferson Airplane or Pink Floyd, the world's supply of irony very well may have run dry.

The jury's final note informed Fenner that it had reached a deadlock and believed further deliberation would not help. When he requested more discussion, the jury returned with its verdict of "not guilty" fifteen minutes later.

Three days after his acquittal, Mark McCloud does not cower after his near-prison experience, does not concoct some weepy monologue about hoping to resume a life of art and quiet and love. Instead, he sits back at his San Francisco home and (after bestowing praise on his jury) digs into a passionate condemnation of the government's war on blotter paper, both treated and untreated.

"I want every LSD prisoner let go, whether they were a snitch or not," he says. "I want their property returned and a public apology from these people who took our right to consciousness without permission."

He speaks at a slow, languid pace that a sloth could transcribe, a pattern that might be irritating if the words themselves were boring. But Mark McCloud does not say boring things. He challenges the government and blasts the war on drugs. He claims he'll fight battles with his art, maybe even design a new sheet of blotter paper with Oliver's face on the front "and his ass on the back so you can spank it." McCloud says things like that.

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