CHICAGO – Jury selection was completed at R. Kelly's child pornography trial Thursday, despite contentious exchanges when prosecutors and defense attorneys accused each other of trying to stack the panel along racial lines.
Sixteen jurors, including four alternates, were chosen by Thursday afternoon to assess allegations that the R&B superstar, who is black, videotaped himself having sex with a girl as young as 13 years old.
Eight of the selected jurors are white, four are black, with two black alternates, one Latino alternate and one white alternate.
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 preemptories (preemptory challenges) on whites."
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 trail," 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-ruled 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 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.