On the Scene: The R. Kelly trial | EW.com

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On the Scene: The R. Kelly trial

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In case fatigue has drowned out the fact that R. Kelly still hasn’t been tried for six-year-old child pornography charges in Chicago, here’s a news flash: jury selection is underway. But finding a group of impartial jurors is proving to be no easy feat in the singer’s native Windy City, where during our first 24 hours we ran into a rental car agent who said he used to live a few doors down from Kelly, and a hotel worker who claims he went to grade school with the singer.

On Monday, Judge Vincent Gaughan and the prosecution and defense teams followed up with the first 16 of 150 jurors who had filled out a questionnaire last week. Though none seemed to know Kelly first-hand, some were aware of what’s been written about him in the papers. The line of questioning included whether they could treat the case fairly despite religious convictions, what they’ve read about the case, whether they could view the much talked-about and seen sex tape (which, it has been ruled, can be shown during the trial), and what their take is on the justice system.

Of course, some jurors are naturally trying to get booted from what could be a four- to six-week trial. Some said they were overwhelmed by Kelly’s celebrity and the importance of this case, others admitted that they had been convicted of crimes, cleared of crimes, or knew people subjected to crimes that would make them biased. One woman said she’s heard Kelly referred to as a pied piper and musical genius. She was later excused, along with a gray-bearded male who, when asked about the age of consent, noted that consent is “too high, as it is,” and that his son says “nature has already provided age of consent: puberty.”

During the several-hour vetting process, R. Kelly sat across potential jurors, wearing a poker face, gray suit, braided hair, and a beard. When Judge Gaughan cracked a joke or snapped at an attorney, Kelly sometimes smirked in amusement; at other times, he held a tissue up to his nose, perhaps in protest over the odor coming from the men’s bathroom he was sitting within arm’s reach of (the prosecution complained about that). Kelly remained stoic for the majority of the hearing and it’ll be interesting to see how long he can keep up that demeanor, considering just three jurors were selected (not sworn in yet) and the selection process is expected to last at least through the end of the week.

Of course, some jurors are naturally trying to get booted from what could be a four- to six-week trial. Some said they were overwhelmed by Kelly’s celebrity and the importance of this case, others admitted that they had been convicted of crimes, cleared of crimes, or knew people subjected to crimes that would make them biased. One woman said she’s heard Kelly referred to as a pied piper and musical genius. She was later excused, along with a gray-bearded male who, when asked about the age of consent, noted that consent is “too high, as it is,” and that his son says “nature has already provided age of consent: puberty.”

During the several-hour vetting process, R. Kelly sat across potential jurors, wearing a poker face, gray suit, braided hair, and a beard. When Judge Gaughan cracked a joke or snapped at an attorney, Kelly sometimes smirked in amusement; at other times, he held a tissue up to his nose, perhaps in protest over the odor coming from the men’s bathroom he was sitting within arm’s reach of (the prosecution complained about that). Kelly remained stoic for the majority of the hearing and it’ll be interesting to see how long he can keep up that demeanor, considering just three jurors were selected (not sworn in yet) and the selection process is expected to last at least through the end of the week.

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