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R. Kelly trial: Jury selection ends and the case moves forward

Rkelly_l

Rkelly_l
On Thursday, R. Kelly rolled up to Chicago’s Cook County Courthouse in a black SUV, just as he had for the previous several days — except he seemed to have more of a skip in his step. It was a noticeable change from the blank air he had been giving off all week during jury selection for his child pornography trial. Perhaps he was happy to see the small crowd of fans standing outside chanting “Free R. Kelly” and singing “I Believe I Can Fly” as he walked toward the building. Or it could be that the singer had a sense of what was about to happen: That all 12 jurors and four alternates would finally be chosen, thus ending the tedium of jury selection so that the trial could move forward next Tuesday.

So who wound up being selected for the jury? There are four African Americans: a man in his
40s who works as a chef; a self-described Christian in
his 50s who knows of Barry Hankerson (the uncle of late singer Aaliyah
who could potentially be called as a witness); a female teacher’s aide
in her late 20s or early 30s; and a middle-aged woman who is married to
a pastor and resides in Olympia Fields, the same neighborhood Kelly
lives in. The eight white jurors consist of a man in his 40s who
previously served as a juror on a another case; a twentysomething female criminal-justice student; a compliance officer
in his 30s; an executive and father of two; a man who says
he’s seen faded-out clips of the alleged video on the news but can
judge the case fairly; a male recent college graduate who was once
arrested for possession of marijuana and underage drinking; a
68-year-old Romanian-American who said he’s “probably not the smartest
guy but will do what is best and fair”; and a young woman who admitted to having once been the victim of rape. (During her interview with Judge Vincent Gaughan and the attorneys,
that juror indicated that sitting through the trial could be difficult, but that she would be able to put her own history aside and judge Kelly fairly.) The alternates consist of a
white man in his 20s who has an uncle that was convicted of child
pornography; a Hispanic man who is about 19 years old; and two black women, one of whom was previously a deputy sheriff in the same
courthouse.

Race was a big issue during the selection. The defense lawyers
accused the state attorneys of using their preemptory challenges (they
each had six strikes at their disposal) to prevent African Americans
from getting on the panel, and the prosecution cried foul over the
reverse. “I don’t look at people like that. It’s all one color to me,”
Kelly’s head defense attorney, Edward Genson, said this week. Today, another defense attorney noted that 50
percent of the challenges used by the prosecution were for African
Americans; the prosecution rebutted, “they’ve used all six
preemptory strikes on whites.” At least 62 of the 150 potential jurors who filled out
preliminary questionnaires were brought in this week for follow-up
interviews. Of those, some were familiar with Kelly’s music, some
weren’t. Some said they would not be able to get past the thought of
their own kids when the time comes to view the infamous videotape of Kelly allegedly performing sex acts with a minor girl.
Others said they already had opinions about Kelly’s guilt (“he’s guilty, or why would the state bother?”) or innocence
(one potential juror argued that the age of consent is “already too high as it is”) that they could not ignore.

Jerhonda Johnson and Keyonia Jones, two die-hard R. Kelly fans with
strawberry-colored hair, hung out at the courthouse all week long as
Kelly came in, left for lunch, returned, and then left for the day. EW.com
spoke with them earlier this week about their support. “If he did it,
then he shouldn’t have recorded it,” said Jones, 23, who has a
2-year-old son she named Robert, after Kelly. “I think he’s the same man
with two different personalities. I think there’s Robert and then R.
Kelly.” Johnson, who doesn’t think the state has a case, agreed: “Robert is the person who is coming to court. R. Kelly is the man who
is behind the music.” Both women made it into the court room on Thursday
afternoon to get a better look at Kelly (the trial is open to the public but there are a limited
number of seats), and as the singer was on his way
out, he waved and smiled at them. Since he faces 14 counts of child
pornography, he’s going to need all of the support he can get: Each
count carries with it a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.

So who wound up being selected for the jury? There are four African Americans: a man in his40s who works as a chef; a self-described Christian inhis 50s who knows of Barry Hankerson (the uncle of late singer Aaliyahwho could potentially be called as a witness); a female teacher’s aidein her late 20s or early 30s; and a middle-aged woman who is married toa pastor and resides in Olympia Fields, the same neighborhood Kellylives in. The eight white jurors consist of a man in his 40s whopreviously served as a juror on a another case; a twentysomething female criminal-justice student; a compliance officerin his 30s; an executive and father of two; a man who sayshe’s seen faded-out clips of the alleged video on the news but canjudge the case fairly; a male recent college graduate who was oncearrested for possession of marijuana and underage drinking; a68-year-old Romanian-American who said he’s “probably not the smartestguy but will do what is best and fair”; and a young woman who admitted to having once been the victim of rape. (During her interview with Judge Vincent Gaughan and the attorneys,that juror indicated that sitting through the trial could be difficult, but that she would be able to put her own history aside and judge Kelly fairly.) The alternates consist of awhite man in his 20s who has an uncle that was convicted of childpornography; a Hispanic man who is about 19 years old; and two black women, one of whom was previously a deputy sheriff in the samecourthouse.

Race was a big issue during the selection. The defense lawyersaccused the state attorneys of using their preemptory challenges (theyeach had six strikes at their disposal) to prevent African Americansfrom getting on the panel, and the prosecution cried foul over thereverse. “I don’t look at people like that. It’s all one color to me,”Kelly’s head defense attorney, Edward Genson, said this week. Today, another defense attorney noted that 50percent of the challenges used by the prosecution were for AfricanAmericans; the prosecution rebutted, “they’ve used all sixpreemptory strikes on whites.” At least 62 of the 150 potential jurors who filled outpreliminary questionnaires were brought in this week for follow-upinterviews. Of those, some were familiar with Kelly’s music, someweren’t. Some said they would not be able to get past the thought oftheir own kids when the time comes to view the infamous videotape of Kelly allegedly performing sex acts with a minor girl.Others said they already had opinions about Kelly’s guilt (“he’s guilty, or why would the state bother?”) or innocence(one potential juror argued that the age of consent is “already too high as it is”) that they could not ignore.

Jerhonda Johnson and Keyonia Jones, two die-hard R. Kelly fans withstrawberry-colored hair, hung out at the courthouse all week long asKelly came in, left for lunch, returned, and then left for the day. EW.comspoke with them earlier this week about their support. “If he did it,then he shouldn’t have recorded it,” said Jones, 23, who has a2-year-old son she named Robert, after Kelly. “I think he’s the same manwith two different personalities. I think there’s Robert and then R.Kelly.” Johnson, who doesn’t think the state has a case, agreed: “Robert is the person who is coming to court. R. Kelly is the man whois behind the music.” Both women made it into the court room on Thursdayafternoon to get a better look at Kelly (the trial is open to the public but there are a limitednumber of seats), and as the singer was on his wayout, he waved and smiled at them. Since he faces 14 counts of childpornography, he’s going to need all of the support he can get: Eachcount carries with it a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.

Originally posted May 16 2008 — 1:26 AM EDT

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