I Defended Mapplethorpe in the Trial That Drew the Line Between Art and Obscenity

Cincinnati’s Famous Case Tussled With the Photographer’s Work and Its Place in Our Culture

On the Friday in 1990 when the collection of 175 photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe, called “The Perfect Moment,” previewed at the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) in Cincinnati, 8,000 people showed up to see them.

The CAC was seven blocks from my law office. On the Saturday morning that the exhibit opened to the public, we heard that the Hamilton County prosecutor had empaneled a grand jury to get an indictment by noon, so we sent out scouts to determine when the police were going to arrest the CAC’s director, Dennis Barrie. …