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Jury selection underway in R Kelly’s New York trial

By | Published on Tuesday 10 August 2021

R Kelly

The first of R Kelly’s long-awaited trials over allegations of sexual abuse is now formally underway, with the jury selection process beginning yesterday. Though opening statements in the New York case are not expected to actually begin until 18 Aug as a result of the Kelly side needing more time to prepare following the departure of two of his lawyers from his legal team back in June.

Kelly has been awaiting trial in jail for more than two years. A stack of charges for sexual abuse, including against minors, and other alleged crimes were filed against the musician in July 2019 in multiple US states, following various investigations which were in turn prompted by the ‘Surviving R Kelly’ documentary series that aired in January that year.

There had been rumours and allegations against Kelly for years which were widely known within the music industry, not least because of the regular coverage of those rumours and allegations by the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper. However, at a previous trial in relation to allegations of sexual abuse against a minor in 2008 he was acquitted. But, in the wake of ‘Surviving R Kelly’, many more alleged victims came forward.

Given Kelly’s high profile – and the extensive coverage of the criminal case against him over the last two years – selecting a jury for his trails is in itself quite a task. As that process got underway in New York yesterday, judge Ann Donnelly reminded the court of her previous ruling that jury members in this case will remain anonymous. They will also be accompanied to the courthouse each day by US Marshalls, she added.

According to the Associated Press, Donnelly then questioned potential jurors regarding their ability to keep an open mind given the media coverage of the allegations to date, stressing that they must not allow themselves to influenced by the bad publicity Kelly has received in recent years, and that they must always remember that a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty. She then asked each potential juror about their hobbies, careers, experiences with law enforcement, and views on same-sex relationships.

Eighteen jurors will be selected for the trial, include six reserve members. Once it is finally underway, the trial itself is expected to run for about four weeks.

Kelly, who was moved from a Chicago prison to a New York jail back in June ahead of the trial, was in court yesterday with his legal team. That included new additions Devereaux Leon Cannick and Calvin Scholar, who have replaced Michael Leonard and Steve Greenberg, both of whom quit the case in June, seemingly because of tensions between the different attorneys on the team.

Last week Cannick gave some indication of the impact the jail time has had on Kelly, telling the judge that his client needed to be measured for new clothing for the trial, because he’s gained so much weight while incarcerated. He also asked that court transcripts be provided at no cost because, having been unable to work for two years, Kelly’s “funds are depleted”.