St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Jurors need to hear why some people choose to engage in extreme and often painful sex acts so that they will be able to make informed decisions in the upcoming trial of a southwest Missouri couple accused of forcing a woman to be a sex slave for several years, defense attorneys told a federal judge Thursday.
For Edward and Marilyn Bagley to get a fair trial, jurors will need at least some understanding of the fringe sex subculture they belong to, in which people derive pleasure from the use of "safe words," dog collars, whips, chains and even electroshock devices, their attorneys said.
"A lot of the conduct described in the government's case is extreme for a lot of people in mainstream society," said Susan Dill, Ed Bagley's attorney.
She said it's important for jurors to know what is considered normal and what is considered extreme in the bondage, dominance, sadism and masochism — or BDSM — community. To disallow testimony about those norms "would be extremely prejudicial," she said.
U.S. District Judge Dean Whipple seemed uneasy at times as defense attorneys and prosecutors debated how much detail jurors should hear at trial about kinky sex acts. He asked Dill if he should ask potential jurors if they take part in BDSM activities during jury selection, to which she responded he should.
"Jesus," Whipple replied, sighing.
The senior judge questioned whether the Western District of Missouri court is the proper place to define and publicize standards for the BDSM subculture, and was surprised when the prosecution told him evidence in the case included thousands of images of sex acts.
"Pictures?" Whipple said. "You have pictures?"
The woman was 16 in 2002 when she moved into the Bagleys' mobile home on the outskirts of Lebanon, a rural community 140 miles southeast of Kansas City, prosecutors said. She lived with them until 2009.
The couple contends that the woman asked to be Edward Bagley's sex slave after she turned 18 and that she willingly engaged in BDSM sex acts with him and others. Defense attorneys say she voluntarily danced at strip clubs during the time she lived with the couple.
Prosecutors allege that the woman was forced to be a sex slave, and say Ed Bagley committed numerous acts of torture and mutilation against her, including whipping and electrically shocking her, locking her into a dog cage and forcing her head underwater or pouring water on her face. They contend that he forced her to strip at clubs.
Four men who pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges said they engaged in or watched the sexual torture of the woman at the Bagleys' home. ...