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Jury selection begins in R. Kelly's federal trial, with focus on potential jurors' exposure to "Surviving R. Kelly" documentary

"Surviving R. Kelly" series a focus of questioning during jury selection
"Surviving R. Kelly" series a focus of questioning during jury selection 02:16

CHICAGO (CBS)-- Jury selection is underway for disgraced R&B singer R. Kelly's federal trial in Chicago, as he prepares to face child pornography and obstruction of justice charges.

Already sentenced to 30 years in prison for federal racketeering and sex trafficking charges in federal court in New York, Kelly would face a minimum of 10 more years behind bars if convicted of the charges in his hometown of Chicago, with the potential for decades more.

The charges in Chicago accuse him of conspiring to rig his 2008 trial on child pornography charges in Cook County by bribing or otherwise intimidating witnesses, including a teenage girl whom he allegedly sexually assaulted on videotape. Kelly was acquitted at that trial. Also facing trial this time around are Kelly's former business manager and another associate.

The tape from the 2008 trial will again be at the center of his trial on obstruction of justice charges, and the victim, now in her 30s, is expected to testify against him.

R. Kelly Trial: What you need to know 10:39

On the first day of jury selection, more than 60 potential jurors were questioned, with about half of them excused for various reasons. No jurors have yet been seated, with those who were questioned but have yet to be excused still in the running for the final jury.

Many of the interviews on Monday lasted only seconds, because the potential jurors said they knew too much about this celebrity case and couldn't be impartial.

The biggest cause for concern has been whether or not they saw the documentary series "Surviving R. Kelly," which detailed the various sexual abuse and assault allegations against Kelly.

That 11-part series aired over three nights in January of 2019. "Surviving R. Kelly Part II: The Reckoning" premiered the following January with another five episodes. It's also currently available to stream.

Kelly's legal team argued that anyone who has seen that "inflammatory" docuseries will not have the ability to remain impartial, but the judge in the case rejected a defense motion to dismiss any potential juror who may have seen any part of the series. Instead, the judge said potential jurors' fairness will be determined individually, depending on how much of the series they might have seen, and how long ago.

Aside from questions about their familiarity with the case, one juror was excused because he said his bad back would keep him from sitting for four weeks straight. Others were excused because of hardships with their jobs - one was a tipped worker, and another was just about to start a new job.

U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber said he was hoping to pick 12 jurors and 6 alternates out of a pool of 125 candidates by the end of the day on Tuesday. The trial is expected to last four weeks.

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