R. Kelly jury complete as sides argue racial makeup

By Michael Tarm

CHICAGO – Jury selection was completed at R. Kelly’s child pornography trial Thursday amid contentious exchanges between prosecutors and defense attorneys, who accused each other of trying to stack the panel along racial lines.

Of the 12 jurors who will open the case, eight are white and four are black. The four alternates include two blacks, one Hispanic and one white.

Defense attorneys objected several times as prosecutors used challenges to have several blacks dismissed from the jury pool.

“I think they’re using these (challenges) to get rid of African Americans,” said Sam Adam Sr., one of Kelly’s attorneys. A little later, he complained that “they’ve used 50 percent of their challenges on African Americans.”

Prosecutor Shauna Boliker shot back, telling the judge that the defense had “used all six of their peremptories (peremptory challenges) on whites.”

The R&B; superstar is accused of videotaping himself having sex with a girl as young as 13 years old.

Among the six jurors chosen Thursday was a young woman who told Judge Vincent Gaughan that she had been raped, but could put the traumatic experience aside and hear the case fairly.

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.

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

Kelly, known for sexually charged hits like “Bump N’ Grind,” has pleaded not guilty. The alleged victim, now 23, says it wasn’t her on the videotape.