Wednesday’s opening arguments are scheduled for the federal trial involving R. Kelly in Chicago.
Following more than twelve hours of questioning over two days that focused on potential biases over the flood of media attention in the case, the jury that will decide R. Kelly’s fate in a federal court in Chicago was chosen on Tuesday.
On Wednesday morning, the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse will host the opening comments in the contentious case.
U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber administered the oath of allegiance to the jury of 12 regular members and six alternates after questioning more than 100 possible jurors on Monday and Tuesday, nearly half of whom he disqualified for “cause.”
Four white women, four Black women, two white men, and two Black men make up the normal jury. They consist of a former lawyer who is now a stay-at-home mother, as well as a library employee who claimed to have learned about the case from the newspaper headlines she places on the shelf.
Another female juror, a retired woman whose two children are attorneys, admitted under questioning that she had never viewed the well-known docuseries “Surviving R. Kelly,” but that her brother had warned her that she would likely be expelled from the panel if she did.
Many members of the panel said that they were fair but had heard about Kelly and the allegations against him before. Some even claimed that after watching portions of “Surviving R. Kelly,” they had not yet formed an opinion about Kelly.
One of the Black women chosen for the jury claimed that she believed she had seen all 12 episodes of the show, but insisted that this would not impair her ability to be fair. This claim caused several Kelly supporters in the courtroom gallery to audibly snicker on Monday.
The jury pool was further reduced by the use of peremptory strikes by the prosecution and the defence teams for Kelly and his two co-defendants before the ultimate jury was chosen.
When Kelly’s main counsel, Jennifer Bonjean, successfully contested three of the prosecution’s strikes of Black jurors on the grounds that they were made primarily on the basis of race, things became heated.
Although Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeannice Appenteng claimed that the grounds for the jurors’ removal were unconnected to race, she said that the prosecution was showing a pattern of discrimination against Black jurors that was “very worrisome.”
On the other hand, there were 12 peremptory strikes by the defence involving the ordinary jury makeup, and almost all of them involved white people. One Black woman and one Asian woman were also targeted by the defence. However, prosecutors made no objections based on that racial split.
Just before six o’clock, the panellists were sworn in.
After the jury was dismissed for the evening, Leinenweber remarked from the bench, “It’s been a long day.” “Enjoy your evening. In a moment, I’m going to have a martini.
In a 2019 indictment, Kelly, 55, was accused of conspiring with others to rig his Cook County trial years ago by paying off a teenage girl who he sexually assaulted on a now-famous film. Kelly was also charged with child pornography and obstruction of justice.
Derrel McDavid, Kelly’s former business manager, and Milton “June” Brown, another accomplice, are also on trial for their claimed roles in a plot to steal incriminating sex videos from Kelly’s collection and conceal years of alleged sexual abuse of minors, according to the indictment.
It is anticipated that the study will last four weeks.
On Tuesday, 41 prospective jurors in total were questioned. A woman who experienced a dizzy episode while Leinenweber inquired about her time at her current address was among those excused. The building was called for emergency assistance, and the woman’s jury duty was cancelled.
Leinenweber questioned each prospective juror during the selection process about Kelly-related news stories they may have seen or heard about, as well as if they had seen the Lifetime documentary that covered many of the sexual misconduct claims included in the indictment.
Kelly participated actively in the decision-making process while seated at the defence table, using headphones to hear sidebar discussions and frequently whispering with his counsel.
The singer also expressed his reactions to the responses of many potential jurors, including one retired teacher who made him laugh aloud by boastfully stating that she had completed the questionnaire “all by herself.”
Meanwhile, McDavid’s lawyers submitted a request late on Monday asking for the indictment to be completely dismissed on the grounds that the prosecution took a “inexcusable and needless” amount of time to file the allegations.
The complaint claims that important witnesses who could have aided McDavid’s case have passed away in the years since the alleged conduct took place. Additionally, according to McDavid’s counsel, crucial pieces of evidence from Kelly’s 2008 trial in Cook County Circuit Court were destroyed after the required seven years had gone.
According to the complaint, the federal government has known for years about the main videotape and at least one arrangement to attempt and recover another incriminating film.
“Despite being fully aware of the allegations and having access to the evidence for many years, the prosecutors did nothing. They allowed important pieces of evidence to be lost to time as a result, the complaint claims.
Leinenweber stated on Tuesday that he would reserve judgement over the request.
The identity of potential jurors are kept secret during the jury selection process, and very little information about them was divulged as Leinenweber questioned each person to clarify the questions they answered on a written questionnaire.
The majority of individuals who were “for cause” removed by the judge stated that they would find it difficult to be Kelly’s advocate given what they already knew about the case. Others have argued that it would be challenging to serve for such a long time due to challenges or medical issues.
When a potential juror is unsure of their impartiality, some judges will attempt to “rehabilitate” them by reminding them of their civic duty to be fair and sternly questioning whether they can fulfil that duty. But Leinenweber disregarded anyone who indicated even the slightest scepticism on their objectivity.
Since his astonishing acquittal in the Cook County case 14 years ago, Kelly has not appeared before a jury in a criminal matter in his hometown until the current trial.
Kelly is charged with 13 offences in total, including producing child pornography, conspiring to generate child pornography, and obstructing the administration of justice. If found guilty, some of the crimes carry obligatory minimum sentences of 10 years in prison, while others have sentences ranging from 5 to 20 years. Additionally, the prosecution is asking Kelly to surrender $1.5 million in personal funds.
No of what happens, Kelly will almost certainly spend a lifetime behind bars. He was found guilty of federal racketeering in New York and received a 30-year sentence in June. In that case, he is appealing both the jury’s decision and the sentence.