R. Kelly trial: Juror nearly dismissed after sequestration incident

An R. Kelly juror was nearly dismissed this morning after throwing a temper tantrum at the sequestration hotel Thursday evening.

The man, a white male in his 40s, apparently became agitated when his food and drink failed to arrive promptly during dinner.

"I've been waiting for a [expletive] half hour for a drink," a deputy quoted him as saying. "All I want is a couple of beers and a hamburger."

Cook County jurors typically are allowed to order any menu item under $10 and to have two alcoholic drinks at taxpayers' expense while sequestered.

Deputies said the man's fellow jurors told him there was no need for foul language, but he continued to rant. He was then removed from the dining area and taken outside, where he allegedly made some unflattering comments about the law-enforcement officials.

"You guys have been monitoring me all day," he was quoted as saying. "You know I'm not drunk."

The man was given his own room at the hotel following the disruption, deputies said.

Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan called the man into the courtroom and asked if he was trying to intimidate his fellow jurors. The man giggled and told the judge he was just feeling claustrophobic.

"Why are you laughing?" the judge asked. "You're grinning at me. Do you have a mental problem?"

The man told the judge that he was fine. The juror has grinned through much of the trial—even when the sex tape was played.

Gaughan let the other 11 jurors decide whether to keep him or restart deliberations with an alternate. The jury sent back a note saying it would continue discussing the case with the man on the panel.

"Your actions have consequences," the judge said. "I don't want another outburst."

Stacy St. Clair

June 13, 2008 9:24 AM CDT: Jury goes back to work

The R. Kelly jury resumed deliberations at 8:30 a.m. after spending the night sequestered in a local hotel.

The panel spent more than three hours discussing the case Thursday before the judge ordered them to recess. They already have elected a foreman and asked for testimony transcripts, which the judge denied.

Kelly is not in the courthouse. The R&B superstar does not have to be in the Cook County Criminal Courts Building during deliberations, but Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan has ordered him to remain within an hour's drive of the courthouse in case a verdict is reached.

June 13, 2008 6:30 AM CDT: The issues before the jury

No more arguments. No more colorful cross-examinations. No more evidence. No more testimony.

After a night tucked away in an undisclosed hotel, jurors in the R Kelly case begin deliberating again at 8:30 a.m.

After a pitched battle for the hearts and minds of the jurors—with prosecutors focusing on the sex tape and the defense trying to raise reasonable doubt wherever it could—the 12-member panel will likely concentrate on several key pieces of evidence. Chief likely among them is the testimony of Lisa Van Allen.

It's clear the jury is interested in the testimony of Van Allen, the prosecution's bombshell witness who claimed to have had three-way sexual encounters with Kelly and the alleged underage victim. One of the first things the jury asked for on Thursday before breaking for the day was the transcript of her testimony. The judge said no.

Van Allen was the only witness who put Kelly and the alleged victim's relationship in a sexual context. If the prosecution succeeds, the jurors will find her credible. The defense, on the other hand, is hoping it raised enough questions about Van Allen's motives and her penchant for fraudulent boyfriends to make it easy to disregard her.

Both sides have best- and worst-case scenarios for other pieces of evidence as well. First, a few things that both the prosecution and defense do not want to happen:

The prosecution:

•Little Man Redux: If the jury believes the defense's theory of a set-up—complete with a doctored sex tape and a vengeful scheme to extort Kelly—the state's case would be thoroughly compromised. Defense expert Dr. Charles Palm testified that in a matter of months he could have placed alternate heads on the bodies of those in the sex tape, akin to the Hollywood manipulation of actor Marlon Wayans' head superimposed on that of a baby's body in the movie "Little Man." If jurors buy that, the centerpiece of the state's case is compromised.

•No Victim, No Conviction: Although numerous witnesses testified to the contrary, the alleged victim has maintained from day one that she is not the girl in the sex tape. Nor did she testify at the trial. If jurors begin to question if they should convict someone for a crime for which there is no victim, it's a short walk to acquittal.

•Lisa the Liar: Even prosecutor Shauna Boliker said that Van Allen wasn't exactly the "kind of girl you would want your son to bring home." If the jury begins to doubt her testimony, it could shake loose one of the linchpins in the prosecution's case. Every other prosecution witness said they had no idea the young girl was having a sexual relationship with Kelly.

The defense:

•That Tape as Truth: The last thing the defense wants is for jurors to believe the tape is an authentic copy of a lurid sex act between Kelly and the alleged victim. Both of the state's expert witnesses, with credentials galore, said the video would have taken years and years to doctor to make it appear that Kelly and the alleged victim were the participants. If the jurors find their testimony sound, game over.

•Too Many Identifications: Even with three family members claiming the female in the video is not the alleged victim, 14 other people did identify her, 12 of whom also identified Kelly. This could strike jurors as somewhat overwhelming. While it was clear from testimony that theirs was a "family divided," there were several unrelated witnesses who also identified the girl in the tape.

•The Mole Patrol: If jurors, when examining photographs of the tape provided by the state's forensic analyst, determine that the disappearing-reappearing black mark matches the mole on Kelly's back, the defense, and by extension Kelly, could be hurt by its opening statement. Defense attorney Sam Adam Jr. said then that the man in the tape had no mole and therefore couldn't be Kelly. That the man in the tape has a mole doesn't condemn Kelly, but it certainly makes it a less compelling defense.

And here are the best-case scenarios for each side:

For the prosecution, jurors see the case just as it presented: They see the tape as proof of a shocking sex act visited upon an underage girl by her godfather. They convict on all 14 counts of child pornography, and Kelly goes to jail for 15 years. The minimum he can receive is four years.

For the defense, jurors find the case as much more complex than presented by the prosecution. The jury—three women and nine men—acquit based on the lack of a victim, the lack of a credible sex tape and the undercurrent of a conspiracy with which the defense sought to taint key witness testimony.

Azam Ahmed