Evidence Error in R. Kelly Trial: 'Exact' Videotape Copy Wasn't

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After six years of delay, the child pornography trial of R&B star R. Kelly is not only under way but nearing a verdict. Testimony concluded in the Chicago case yesterday, with the 41-year-old Kelly deciding not to testify, and closing arguments are scheduled for tomorrow.

However, a major evidence issue has surfaced that may has the potential to derail the case once more. Jurors—and, apparently, defense lawyers—were mistakenly told by the prosecution that a DVD shown at trial was an exact copy of the videotape in which Kelly allegedly has sex with an underage girl. In fact, as the government now acknowledges, it was a copy—and a copy which didn’t look exactly the same as the original, reports the Chicago Sun-Times.

Whether the man in the videotape is Kelly has been a key issue at trial. The defense has contended that he could not be Kelly, because he doesn’t have a caterpillar-shaped mole along his spine that Kelly, his lawyers say, has had since birth. Now it appears that “video noise,” as a prosecution expert terms it, may account for the seemingly missing mole. Meanwhile, believing the DVD was the same as the original videotape, the defense says, it argued the case accordingly.

“If I were Kelly’s lawyer, I’d be screaming for a mistrial,” Steve Greenberg, a defense lawyer who’s not involved in the case, tells the newspaper.

Judge Vincent Gaughan described the situation as “the rotten tomato in the barrel.” But he also asked the prosecution and defense to huddle and figure out how to resolve the issue, which they did, reaching an agreement that has not been disclosed.

Kelly faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

Additional coverage:

Chicago Tribune: “R. Kelly trial is forced to debate quality of DVD vs. video”

ABAJournal.com (May 9, 2008): “After 6 Years, R. Kelly Trial Begins”

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