R. Kelly's lawyer wants trial secrecy

Child pornography trial set to begin Friday

R. Kelly's right to a fair trial trumps the media's right of access to sealed court records in the R&B singer's child pornography case, his defense attorneys said.

Kelly's attorneys asked the state Supreme Court on Friday to deny an emergency motion filed by the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, WBEZ-Chicago Public Radio and the Associated Press. The news organizations want transcripts of closed pretrial hearings and an end to a gag order on attorneys.

"Mr. Kelly's right to a fair trial must remain paramount," even if that means restricting media exposure, defense attorney Marc Martin wrote in a document filed Friday.

"The First Amendment right to access in the context of a criminal trial is not absolute," Martin said.

The media companies have not yet decided whether to respond to the defense filing, said their attorney, Damon Dunn.

Kelly, 41, has pleaded not guilty to charges he videotaped himself having sex with an underage girl. His trial is scheduled to start Friday in Chicago.

Judge Vincent Gaughan has said he is trying to protect Kelly's rights and prevent information from influencing prospective jurors.

Martin noted that Gaughan has scheduled a hearing on the matter for Thursday and he said the judge should get the chance to rule on the motions' merits.

He also supported Gaughan's assertion that secrecy is key to selecting an impartial jury, noting the case has attracted attention around the world.

News organizations waited too long to object to the closed hearings and gag order, Martin said. Gaughan signed an order limiting what attorneys can discuss with the media on June 22, 2007.

"At the outset, there simply is no 'emergency,' " Martin wrote. "The sudden claim of need for prompt action is due to the intervenors' own failure to act in a timely fashion."

But Dunn said the timing shouldn't matter.

"It's like arguing that because you didn't speak up to a violation of constitutional rights, then the violation should continue," he said