CHICAGO — For the past two days, when prospective jurors have been interviewed as part of jury selection in the R. Kelly trial, Judge Vincent Gaughan has done most of the questioning, trying to provide whatever levity he can to make the process more bearable. Still, it's no wonder, given the cramped confines and uncomfortable chairs of the back room where this all takes place, that the singer was starting to look tired, possibly even bored during the proceedings in his child-pornography trial. That all changed when potential juror Number 37 walked in on Tuesday afternoon.
Number 37 was a white male who appeared to be in his 60s, and with his constant looking around and leaning in, he projected an aura of anxiety. Right off the bat, Number 37 set the agenda, and instead of waiting to be asked questions by the judge or the lawyers, he started firing questions of his own.
THE R. KELLY TRIAL: IN BRIEF
First, he asked the judge if he was guaranteed a seat on the jury, given that he'd made it this far. (The answer was no.) Then he asked the judge if it was OK if he watched the Weather Channel (jurors are instructed to stay away from news reports on the case). "I just don't watch the news," the man said, before rattling off every channel he watches, including the Discovery Channel, the History Channel and Animal Planet.
Number 37 then started listing his hobbies, which include mapmaking. To illustrate, he started talking about the possibility of there being a Judge Vincent Gaughan Boulevard, and what if it intersected with a Sacha Baron Cohen Boulevard? Or a Christiane Amanpour Boulevard? At these mentions, Kelly, who had been gazing at his lap, looked up. "You're putting me in with stars," the judge demurred. "I'm not a star."
Gaughan tried to get the man to clarify a response on the written questionnaire, which asked, "As a result of filling out this questionnaire, have you formed an opinion on this case?" Number 37 read his otherwise illegible or unclear answer, "Yes, child porn is immoral, people! R. Kelly may have led the Taliban to attacking us on 9/11, but you can't prove it!"
Kelly looked stunned. Sure, he had compared himself to Osama Bin Laden in an interview with Blender in 2003 — but was this man taking him literally? Apparently, yes — but shortly after making the outrageous claim, the man changed the mood in the courtroom as he started talking about his mother passing away last Christmas. Since then, he said, he has been at a loss, especially when it comes to preparing food. "You got to watch the cooking channel too," the judge gently suggested before excusing him.
"I think he's a perfect juror," defense attorney Sam Adam joked after the man left the room, when hardly anyone could hold back laughing anymore. Needless to say, Number 37 did not make R. Kelly's jury — and when he found out, he left the courtroom asking, "What did I do wrong?"
The five jurors who were selected Tuesday include a black male, a black female, a white female and two white males. Four jurors and four alternates remain to be selected. Check back for a more detailed report once the full jury has been chosen.
For full coverage of the R. Kelly case, see The R. Kelly Reports.