Birdsong was out in Chicago when the R. Kelly child pornography trial started a month ago. It was Birdsong’s prediction that Kelly would not be convicted of any of the 14 counts of child pornography on which he was indicted.
As it turns out Birdsong was right. On Friday, June 13, 2008, R. Kelly the popular R & B singer known for his “steppin” songs stepped out of his Chicago courtroom a free man after hearing 14 “not guilty” verdicts read by the jury. The case originated over six years ago when a videotape was mailed to a Chicago newspaper that purported to show Kelly in graphic sex acts with a girl alleged to be 13 years old. Kelly was 31 years old at the time. The newspaper turned the tape over to Chicago prosecutors who later indicted Kelly.
Birdsong’s students are always amazed that so many of his predictions concerning trials come true. Yet, if they understand the concept of “reasonable doubt” which Birdsong teaches in his criminal law class they would not be amazed. Under our criminal system of justice the government bringing criminal charges against an individual must prove each and every element of each and every crime brought beyond a reasonable doubt. Not beyond all doubt – just beyond a reasonable doubt.
There was oh so much doubt in this case the jury had to acquit.
At the outset there will be doubt about any criminal case that takes six years to come to trial as did this one. Juries usually give celebrities the benefit of the doubt when criminal charges are brought against them. Celebrities are seldom convicted of such serious charges. Yet, the real doubt in this case revolved around the fact that there was a videotape purporting to show Kelly having sex with a 13 year old girl. But more doubt arose when the victim alleged she was not the girl on the tape and refused to testify at trial. In out of court statements Kelly also denied being the man on the tape. The defense team presented evidence that Kelly had a large mole on his back and argued that the tape revealed that the man in the tape had no such mole.
Finally, the prosecution’s star witness who testified that she had had a 3 way sexual tryst at another time with Kelly and the 13 year old girl put the final nail in the coffin of reasonable doubt. The defense team impeached her by exposing the fact that she had stolen money and a Rolex watch from Kelly and had previously attempted to extort money from him over another matter.
What a sordid mess! R. Kelly did not take the witness stand. Our Constitutional law provides that he did not have to do so and the jury could not hold this against him. So, reasonable doubt prevailed. It only takes one reasonable doubt to acquit. The R. Kelly jury found a plethora of reasons to doubt.
R. Kelly made no statements after his acquittal. However, in court he did utter the words “Thank you, Jesus” each of the 14 times the jury foreperson announced not guilty.