Things only got worse for the defense. It took the prosecution four weeks to make its case against Kelly, calling 50 witnesses, including former assistants, his doctor, tour managers, engineers, victims, an expert on interpersonal violence, records custodians, an Illinois clerk’s office employee and homeland security agents, among others. One by one, they delivered cohesive testimony, while the defense’s cross-examinations -- which Becker said would be as simple as “one plus one equals two” -- were sometimes so convoluted that reporters questioned whether it was a tactic to confuse jurors and witnesses. And while Becker remained at Kelly’s side every day, the two whispering to each other frequently throughout testimonies, she slowly faded into the background of the defense, with Cannick taking on key witnesses.
Cannick, a trial lawyer with federal experience joined Kelly’s defense team on June 21 along with attorney Calvin Scholar, two weeks after Greenberg and Leonard’s departure. According to Greenberg, Cannick did not find Becker and Farinella cooperative. “I talked to Cannick a few times; I was trying to help them,” Greenberg says. “[Becker and Farinella] tried to freeze him out of discovery materials and he reached out to me to get them.” (Cannick did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)
According to the anonymous source, Cannick grew frustrated with Becker and Farinella’s approach and work ethic, just as Greenberg and Leonard had. “It was two separate teams. He basically wouldn't speak to them as the trial went on. Also, he wouldn't give them any witnesses [to question], which was smart but makes it hard for one guy to try the case.”
In some instances, Kelly’s legal quartet did sow doubt with the jurors. While cross-examining Kelly’s victims and former employees, they firmly established that in many scenarios, the women could have willingly walked out of his homes, studios and tour buses, undermining claims they were being held by Kelly against their will. Cannick drew attention to lies told by victims to their parents or Kelly himself, attempting to discredit their damning testimonies.
But in other moments, Becker and Cannick resorted to victim blaming, claiming the women “knew what they were getting themselves into” -- as Becker put it -- and critiquing their dance moves and wardrobe choices as teenagers. Another time, Cannick berated a key witness, Jerhonda Pace, accusing her of lying to the jury about her age at first sexual encounter with Kelly. As he paced back and forth, raising his voice to theatrical levels and reminding Pace that she was under oath, it was his own math about her age that turned out to be wrong.
When Cannick, who is Black, later suggested that Pace was lying about never having attended a party with loud music because she’s Black, he was quickly shut down. “Come on Mr. Cannick,” Donnelly said after the prosecution’s sustained objection. “Move along.”
Trial attorney Phillip C. Hamilton, managing partner at Hamilton-Clarke, LLP, who is not involved with Kelly’s case, questions the defense’s approach to witnesses. “Trial is theater,” says Hamilton. “The jury is now sympathizing with witnesses because of the way that you are ineffectively beating them up. I'm not really hearing any sympathy for R. Kelly here, and as a defense attorney, not [encouraging sympathy] is damn near malpractice.”