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R. Kelly jury up to 8 members

Chicago Tribune reporter

Jury selection in the R. Kelly trial reached the halfway point Tuesday as attorneys from both sides agreed on five more jurors.

The child pornography case now has eight jurors—five men and three women—who will decide the R&B superstar's fate. The eight are split evenly between black and white members.

The newest jurors chosen are a teacher's aide, a married man in his 40s, a criminal justice student, an investment firm compliance officer and a man with prior jury experience. They join three people selected after Monday's questioning.

Before opening statements can begin, attorneys must settle on 12 jurors and four alternates to serve on the high-profile case. The trial, which has drawn international media attention, is expected to last several weeks.

Kelly, 41, is charged with 14 counts of child pornography stemming from a sexually explicit videotape that authorities say he made with a girl as young as 13. Prosecutors say the tape was made sometime between Jan. 1, 1998 and Oct. 1, 2000. Kelly has pleaded not guilty.

Dressed in a sand-colored suit and gold patterned tie, Kelly did not take an active role in jury selection for the second consecutive day. He appeared to be fighting to keep his eyes open as lawyers asked the same questions about presumption of innocence, the right to a fair trial and reasonable doubt.

Among Kelly's newest jurors, the investment banker fought hardest to be excused. He wrote on his questionnaire that his service would create a financial burden so severe, he would struggle to afford "food and water." He said Tuesday that his boss assured him they could work something out.

The man, who is white and sported an "Impeach Bush" button on his backpack, said he would take his jury duties seriously if picked.

"I would make sure I would hold myself to very high standards," he said.

Another man picked Tuesday suggested he would be a good juror based on his prior jury service in two civil trials. The man, also white, said he had not followed the case much.

Of the eight selected so far, only one seems to be wholly familiar with R. Kelly and his music. The panelist, a black woman who works as a teacher's aide at a local Catholic school, told the judge that her friends have discussed the case and are evenly split about the singer's innocence. Some believe Kelly's shown in the tape, while others don't believe it's him, she said.

The woman works at the Catholic school that once employed Rev. Daniel McCormack, who pleaded guilty last year to fondling five boys ranging in age from 8 to 12 inside the school's rectory.

McCormack's case was tried by Assistant State's Atty. Shauna Boliker, who is also the lead prosecutor on the Kelly case.

Another juror, a married culinary student who is black, recognized the names of two potential witnesses, but said he had not followed the case much since the singer's 2002 indictment.

"I don't know the facts yet," he said.

The panel's youngest member is a criminal justice student who wants to be a police officer. She has been in school for five years.

During questioning, she said she only knew one or two of the Grammy winner's "old songs." The singer, whose real name is Robert Kelly, did not appear offended.

Jury selection resumes Wednesday.


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