Here’s what I know about R. Kelly’s arrest:
He’s charged with several sex crimes. He posted bond. I don’t really know anything beyond that. I don’t need to.
Illinois law is so compromised when it comes to sex crimes that he won’t receive a fair trial. Maybe you don’t care because you watched Surviving R. Kelly and believe he needs to be in prison. Maybe you’re not concerned because you think he skated on the charges in his prior legal battles. Maybe, just maybe, you aren’t worried because you heard “The Remix To Ignition” 100 too many times. I don’t know.
I also heard “The Remix To Ignition” too many times. I also don’t care about R. Kelly.
What I do care about is that a lot of people without R. Kelly’s baggage get wrapped up in the same system as R. Kelly and they’re not all guilty. That should frighten you- you could be one of them.
If you are, here’s why you won’t get a fair trial either:
115-7.3 Ain’t Nothing But a Number.
When you’re charged with a sex crime in Illinois one of the first things the government does is move to admit “other crimes” pursuant to 720 ILCS 5/115-7.3. This means that prosecutors won’t just be putting R. Kelly on trial for what’s in the complaint- they can attempt to use any or every other person who has made allegations against him at trial.
That means that any or all of those women from Surviving R. Kelly could possibly be testifying in a trial that has nothing to do with them.
If R. Kelly had been charged with a non-sex-related crime the government could not do this. It’s considered so prejudicial that it prevents a defendant from getting a fair trial. We don’t care about fair trials for sex cases in Illinois. We care about convictions. That’s not scary when it’s R. Kelly in shackles. It’s usually not R. Kelly in the shackles, however.
The World’s Greatest (Hearsay Exception)
The prosecutors will also move to get hearsay statements in through 720 ILCS 5/115-10 if they can. 115-10 allows hearsay from the purported victim to come into trial if the victim was under 13 (or mentally impaired) when the offense occurred.
Prosecutors absolutely love 115-10, especially in delayed reporting cases. It’s hard to cross-examine hearsay. Especially so if it’s years old, vague, and lacks any details that might be corroborated. Those statements are, however, routinely admitted into evidence for sex cases.
The same hearsay doesn’t come in for non-sex-related cases. If R. Kelly was charged with murder, terrorism, or selling 492 tons, of cocaine the hearsay of witnesses and victims is unreliable. In sex cases it apparently is reliable.Embed from Getty Images
I Believe I Can Fly This By the Jury and They Will Buy It.
If the government really wants to maximize its edge, prosecutors will also file a motion to use an expert to testify about an “accepted form of post-traumatic stress syndrome.” Prosecutors are allowed to call this “rape trauma syndrome” or “child abuse accommodation syndrome” to ensure they can maximize the prejudicial effect.
The real advantage there is that the law does not require the “expert” to have diagnosed, examined, or even have talked to any possible victim. Illinois law doesn’t even require the victim to have an “accepted form of post-traumatic stress syndrome.” We just have an isolated law that says it comes in at trial.
Since it’s R. Kelly’s trial, nobody will care if a random “expert” starts talking about “rape trauma” in the middle of the trial (even if no victim has been diagnosed with “rape trauma syndrome”). People would surely care if you were on trial though, right?
Drew Peterson Ignited Change: The Peterson Effect.
The single greatest reason R. Kelly can’t win is the Drew Peterson effect. Peterson was so annoying that we rooted for his imprisonment simply so we’d not have to see in the news again. Consequently he was subjected to a process that only became more tilted after it began.
Once Drew Peterson was charged with murder, Illinois lawmakers changed the law to make it easier to convict him.
The changed law, dubbed “Drew’s Law” eliminated a legal barrier (aka “right”) that prevented prosecutors from admitting certain (previously considered) “unreliable” evidence they wanted to admit. It worked, too.
Lawmakers changed the law because Peterson was a high-profile jerk that nobody cared about. R. Kelly is also a high-profile jerk that nobody cares about. If it really looks like R. Kelly might have a shot at winning, there’s no doubt the Illinois General Assembly would be quick to start changing laws again.
Rest Assured, We Will Convict!
There you have it. R. Kelly is going to go to prison and you heard it here for the 6,234th time. If you’re worried he might not, don’t be. In Illinois we’ve changed several laws to make it easier to convict people charged with sex offenses than just about any other crime. When we’re done with R. Kelly, we’ll get back to using the same system on people like you.