Update: Sheila Kearns found guilty!
Judge Charles Schneider scheduled sentencing for March 4. The maximum penalty for each felony count is one year in prison and a $2,500 fine. However, probation is the presumed penalty for the low-level felony.
Kearns, 58, showed the movie to students ranging in age from 14 to 18 on April 11, 2013.
Sheila Kearns, age 58, was a substitute teacher who is now facing jail time because she showed the class the ABCs of Death (2012). I know the horror anthology film was horrible and has really graphic content but is this too much? I can make jokes that some of the makers of the horror shorts should have gone to jail but this is a serious matter. Do you think this went overboard or do you think that Sheila Kearns deserves to go to jail? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below and full details on the case are below.
A Franklin County jury must decide whether a former substitute teacher for the Columbus City Schools committed a crime when she showed a movie filled with graphic sex and violence to five Spanish classes at East High School.
Sheila Kearns, 58, went on trial yesterday in Common Pleas Court on five felony counts of disseminating matter harmful to juveniles.
Defense attorney Geoffrey Oglesby told the jury in his opening statement that Kearns had her back to the screen during the showings of The ABCs of Death and was unaware of the graphic nature of the movie, which she thought was in Spanish.
"It was a mistake that the state wants to turn into a crime," he said.
Kearns, of Miller Avenue on the South Side, showed the movie on April 11, 2013, to students ranging in age from 14 to 18 during five class periods, Assistant Prosecutor Kacey Chappelear said. Some of the students are expected to testify during the trial.
Kearns tried to fast-forward through the movie when an assistant principal walked into the room, but instead caused the movie to pause "with bare female breasts on the screen," Chappelear said.
The ABCs of Death, which the jury is expected to watch today, consists of 26 chapters, one for each letter of the alphabet and all focusing on different ways to die. For example, "D" is for " dogfight" and "L" is for "libido."
Chappelear said the movie contains graphic violence and explicit sex, including "full frontal nudity, masturbation, ejaculate, feces and vomit."
Although available on Netflix, the movie "is not by any means appropriate for minors," she said. Movie websites label it as NR--Not Rated.
Chappelear told the jury of 10 men and two women that they must decide whether the movie is harmful to juveniles and, if so, whether it fits the definition of obscenity under Ohio law.
Each of the charges is punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of $2,500. However, there is a presumption of probation for the charges, which are low-level felonies.
Oglesby, a Sandusky lawyer, criticized the school district for hiring Kearns, who does not speak Spanish, as a long-term substitute in a Spanish classroom. Kearns had no choice but to show videos to keep the students occupied "in an act of glorified babysitting," he said.
Although she thought The ABCs of Death was a Spanish film, only a few of the segments are in Spanish, Oglesby said. She did not watch the movie in advance, he said, and wouldn’t have shown it in the classroom if she had.
Oglesby told the jury The ABCs of Death premiered at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival and was shown in Columbus at the Gateway Film Center.
Among the considerations for the jury is whether the movie appeals primarily "to the prurient or scatological interest ... rather than primarily for a genuine, scientific, educational, sociological, moral or artistic purpose."
Chappelear said an East High teacher alerted an assistant principal after a student told her about seeing the movie in class. The assistant principal went to Kearns’ classroom, saw what was on the screen and confiscated the movie.
The school resource officer for East High contacted police.
Oglesby said Kearns continued to teach at the school until she was terminated in May 2013. She was indicted in February 2014.
School-district records show Kearns was hired as a substitute teacher on Dec. 2, 2010, and terminated on June 28, 2013, district spokesman Jeff Warner said yesterday.
He could not immediately determine whether she continued to work as a substitute teacher for the district between the April 11, 2013, incident and her termination.
The ABCs of Death (2012)
Synopsis: A 26-chapter anthology that showcases death in all its vicious wonder and brutal beauty.
Directors: Adam Wingard, Ben Wheatley, Nacho Vigalondo, Ti West, Kaare Andrews, Marcel Sarmiento, Adrián García Bogliano, Jorge Michel Grau, Banjong Pisanthanakun, Jake West, Jason Eisener, Timo Tjahjanto, Andrew Traucki, Lee Hardcastle, Noboru Iguchi, Thomas Cappelen Malling, Anders Morgenthaler, Simon Rumley, Jon Schnepp, Srdjan Spasojevic, Yoshihiro Nishimura, Angela Bettis, Hélène Cattet, Yudai Yamaguchi, Ernesto Díaz Espinoza, Bruno Forzani, Xavier Gens
Genres: Horror, Comedy
Writers: Ant Timpson, Nacho Vigalondo, Adrián García Bogliano, Ernesto Díaz Espinoza, Marcel Sarmiento, Kaare Andrews, Simon Barrett, Keith Calder, Hélène Cattet, Bruno Forzani, Lee Hardcastle, Noboru Iguchi, Yoshihiro Nishimura, Simon Rumley, Jon Schnepp, Srdjan Spasojevic, Martha Poly Vil, Dimitrije Vojnov, Ti West, Yudai Yamaguchi
Producers: Simon Boswell, Todd Brown, Mayra Espinosa Castro, Rob Cotterill, Ed Dougherty, Chris Ferguson, Nahikari Ipiña, Claire Jones, Kristoffer Jørgensen, Lee Kelleher, Tim League, Julie Lind-Holm, Petter Lindblad, Oliver Linsley, Camila Mendez, Douglas Nabors, Syunichi Nakada, Yoshihiro Nishimura, Francis Gregory O'Toole, Tom Quinn, Andrea Quiroz, Chris Sergi, Andrew Starke, Lino P. Stavole, Michel Teicher, Ant Timpson, Ryô Uchiyama, Nacho Vigalondo, Marc Walkow, Christopher White, Nanae Yoshida
Musicians: Phillip Blackford, Simon Boswell, Yasuhiko Fukuda, Jammes Luckett, Nobuhiko Morino, Kou Nakagawa, Julio Pillado, Aria Prayogi, Kevin Riepl, Johannes Ringen, Fajar Yuskemal
Editors: Phillip Blackford, Jon D. Domínguez, Ernesto Díaz Espinoza, Adrián García Bogliano, Robert Hall, Tim Kolenut, Greg Ng, Yoshihiro Nishimura, Takanori Tsujimoto, Martin Wichmann, Yudai Yamaguchi
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