Jurors to hear opening statements in second R. Kelly federal trial




  • In US
  • 2022-08-17 13:23:00Z
  • By Chicago Tribune

After two full days of jury selection, opening statements are slated to begin in Chicago Wednesday morning in the second federal trial for disgraced R&B superstar R. Kelly.

The 12 jurors and six alternates were sworn in late Tuesday. They are expected to hear evidence and arguments over roughly the next four weeks.

U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber, who questioned more than 100 potential jurors on Monday and Tuesday, dismissed nearly half for "cause," generally because they indicated they wouldn't be fair or because jury duty would present a significant hardship.

The makeup of the regular jury is: Four white women, four Black women, two white men, and two Black men. They include a former attorney who is now a stay-at-home mom and a library worker who said she knew about the case from the headlines in the newspapers she puts on the shelf.

Another female juror, a retiree whose two children are lawyers, said during questioning that she'd never seen the high-profile docuseries "Surviving R. Kelly," but that her brother had told her "If I watched (it) I'd probably get kicked off" the jury.

Many of those on the panel said they'd heard of Kelly and the accusations against him before, but could remain fair. Some even said they'd seen parts of "Surviving R. Kelly" but had formed no opinion about Kelly himself.

One of the Black women selected for the jury said she thinks she'd seen all 12 episodes of the series, but insisted it would not affect her ability to be fair - prompting some audible snickers from a few Kelly supporters watching from the courtroom gallery on Monday.

The final panel was selected after both prosecutors and attorneys for Kelly and his two-co-defendants used their peremptory strikes to further pare down the jury pool.

Things got testy Tuesday when Kelly's lead attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, successfully challenged three of the prosecution's strikes of Black jurors, alleging they were based solely on race.

She said prosecutors were displaying a pattern against Black jurors that was "quite disturbing," though the Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeannice Appenteng said they had reasons to remove the jurors unrelated to race.

On the flip side, nearly every single peremptory strike by the defense involving the regular jury makeup was of a white person - 12 in all. The defense also moved to strike one Asian woman and one Black woman. Prosecutors, however, did not raise any challenges based on that racial breakdown.

Kelly, 55, was charged with child pornography and obstruction of justice in a 2019 indictment alleging he conspired with others to rig his Cook County trial years ago by paying off a teenage girl whom he sexually assaulted on a now-infamous videotape.

Also facing trial are Kelly's former business manager, Derrel McDavid, and another associate, Milton "June" Brown, who, according to the indictment, schemed to buy back incriminating sex tapes that had been taken from Kelly's collection and hide years of alleged sexual abuse of underage girls.

jmeisner@chicagotribune.com

mcrepeau@chicagotribune.com

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