Today, disgraced singer and #MeToo lightning rod R. Kelly was convicted in a New York Federal Court of charges related to sex trafficking and racketeering. The Grammy award-winning and multi-platinum selling artist will likely receive a sentence that will put him in jail for the remainder of his natural life.
There is one problem, however: the courtroom where R. Kelly’s trial took place was closed to the media.
In the United States, the media is allowed to attend criminal trials as part of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The First Amendment protects freedom of speech, the press, assembly, and the right to petition the government for the redress of grievances. In short, the United States Supreme Court has held that the media can attend criminal trials because it is imperative to freedom of the press and the public interest at large that the media be allowed to report on criminal proceedings.
In the United States vs. R. Kelly, U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly decided to keep the media out of the courtroom less than a month before the trial started on August 18, 2021. Justice Donnelly’s rationale was that, because of the pandemic, jurors must observe social distancing protocols and would therefore be seated in the gallery of the courtroom. The gallery is where the media usually sits. Further, Justice Donnelly held it would be inappropriate to seat jurors and the media together.
The main issue is that Justice Donnelly did not require jurors to be vaccinated. Respectfully, that’s some ass-backward logic on the Honourable Justice Donnelly’s part. Not requiring vaccinations and then excluding the media to protect jurors makes absolutely no sense. In effect, Justice Donnelly said the individual’s choice to receive the vaccine outweighs the First Amendment’s right to a free press.
If vaccinations were a requirement for jurors in Justice Donnelly’s courtroom, the media could attend and we would probably see live footage of R. Kelly’s face when the verdict was read out. Instead, the United States judiciary just handed R. Kelly and his preference for underage and vulnerable women ready-made grounds for appeal.
I guess they didn’t learn anything from Cosby.
P.S. Is it wrong I still think Ignition is an absolute banger?
If you have any questions or comments related to criminal or constitutional law, I can be reached at 1 (866) 489-1710 or (416) 560-7757. Better yet, send me an email at [email protected].