MANHATTAN (CN) - Prosecutors in the "cannibal cop" case may probe jury tolerance for violent sexual fantasies with questionnaires that superimpose women's faces over cartoons of cooked bodies.
New York City Police Officer Gilberto Valle, 28, faces charges of conspiring with men he met on Internet chat rooms to "kidnap, rape, torture, kill, cook and eat" women.
He insists, however, that he was just one of more than 40,000 visitors to a website catering to extreme sexual fetishes he never wanted to enact.
With a February trial approaching, the parties convened in Southern District of New York on Monday to debate how to screen a jury of his peers.
Defense attorneys, led by Julia Gatto, submitted a series of questions
assessing whether jurors can impartially weigh evidence about rape, bondage, debreasting, castration, necrophilia and sadomasochism fantasies.
Prosecutors, on the other hand, want to strike
the clinical language and characterize the evidence as "descriptions of violence, including sexual violence and the abuse of children."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Hadassa Waxman explained that an alleged co-conspirator fantasized about eating a child in a chat with Valle.
Public defender Julia Gatto countered: "These words never came from ... Mr. Valle."
U.S. Judge Paul Gardephe seemed reluctant to introduce queries related to minors.
"I'm somewhat concerned about misleading the members about what this case is about," Gardephe said.
The parties also disagreed about whether jurors should divulge whether they have moral objections to Internet pornography.
Another prosecutor, Randall Jackson, said that the inquiry would be irrelevant because the government does not plan to display any garden-variety sexually explicit material found on Valle's computer at trial.
Jurors will instead likely see Photoshop montages, created by Valle, that show the faces of women spliced over cartoons of tortured and charred bodies, as well as a "staged video" Valle watched of a woman being hunted in the woods, Jackson added.
Such evidence raises the question, "What constitutes pornography," he asked.
Gatto countered that the "staged video" existed only because "there's a very large universe of people" who consider it pornographic.
"They use it as masturbation material," she said.
Gatto struggled to admit other questions testing whether jurors would be offended by "homoerotic themes."
Prosecutors call the question irrelevant because they alleged only a conspiracy to rape and eat women.
Gatto pointed out that Valle constantly discussed his sexual fantasies in detail with other men.
"I think jurors might view this as homoerotic," she said.
Judge Gardephe will send out the final questionnaire to a pool of 75 to 100 potential jurors on Feb. 8. Lawyers will screen them further three days later for a trial later that month.