R. Kelly jury complete

May 15, 2008 4:31:59 PM PDT
A jury has been selected for the child pornography trial of R&B singer R. Kelly. Opening statements will begin Tuesday.

It took four days to pick a jury of 12 and also four alternates. Up until Thursday, things were going at a snail's pace.

Going into Thursday, they needed to pick eight more jurors and the four alternates and by the end of the day. They did that.

During the process, race became an issue, but despite that, the jurors come from a variety of backgrounds. A woman who says she's a rape victim, a recent college graduate who once spent five days in jail for a marijuana bust, a pastor's wife and a man who wears an anti-Bush button on his backpack are all serving on the jury that will decide R. Kelly's fate.

The superstar walked out of court after four full days of listening to potential jurors' personal stories and their views of the criminal justice system. In all, the R. Kelly jury consists of eight men and four women. Eight of the jurors are white. Four are black.

When picking jurors, race became an issue when defense attorneys accused prosecutors of intentionally striking minorities from the jury. The law prohibits lawyers from excluding people based on race or gender. Judge Vincent Gaughan reminded the defense team that they used all seven of their challenges on white candidates.

The defense was also out of its challenges when a woman believed to be in her 20s told lawyers and the judge she was a victim of a sex crime. Despite her personal story, she said she could be fair in judging Kelly's guilt or innocence.

Defense attorneys later asked to have her dismissed based on the rape, but Gaughan rejected the request. "She looked at Mr. Kelly and said she could give him a fair trial," the judge said.

Kelly mostly kept his head down at one end of a conference table while potential jurors were questioned, scribbling notes on yellow index cards in his lap. Between the sessions with each juror, Kelly stretched his arms and yawned.

But when one young man, later named as an alternate, told the judge that pictures don't always reveal the whole truth of a situation, Kelly looked up and nodded his head in agreement.

Another of the people to sit on the jury was a 68-year-old man who immigrated from Communist Romania 38 years ago. He praised the U.S. justice system, saying he understood the accused are presumed innocent.

"The score sheet at the beginning of the trial -- zero, zero," he said.

One of the final two women chosen as alternates was a retired Cook County sheriff's deputy who worked in the same complex that the trial is taking place. She said she knew little about the Kelly case but could be fair to the R&B singer.

The final alternate chosen was a black woman in her 40s who did not face extensive questioning from the prosecution, defense or judge.

The questioning took place in a conference room behind the courtroom. It's the same room where jurors will deliberate.

Kelly is finally going to trial six years after he was charged with child pornography. Jurors will be shown a 26-minute videotape that allegedly shows Kelly having sex with a girl that prosecutors say is as young as 13 years old. If convicted, Kelly could face up to 15 years in prison.

The alleged victim, the girl in the videotape, will be testifying for the defense. She claims that she's not the girl in the videotape.

The judge told jurors that this is a trial that can last up to four weeks. It begins Tuesday at 11 a.m.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Load Comments