Battle of the forensic video experts in R. Kelly trial

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Maybe the third viewing of the sexually graphic videotape will be a charm for R. Kelly as his defense team worked Thursday to raise reasonable doubt in the child pornography trial against the urban music superstar.

During the first viewing of the sexually graphic videotape that is the heart of the child pornography trial against the 41-year-old singing sensation, there is no mole on the man’s lower back. Upon a second viewing and in frozen motion, there is a “dark spot,” as analyzed by a video expert for the prosecution. Shown for the third time, again in freeze frame, but this time by a video expert for the defense, there is no mole. Kelly has a mole on his lower back, as depicted in police photos after his arrest in 2002. The man in the video does not. The man in the video is not Kelly, his defense team said during its opening statement. Video forensic expert Charles Palm performed his own frame-by-frame analysis of a 17-frame segment in the nearly half-hour amateur sex tape that focused on the man’s bare back%uFFFDshowing no mole%uFFFDrebutting Grant Fredericks’ claims last week that a dark spot appears on the man’s lower back, near a spot where Kelly has a mole. When the same frames of the man’s back were frozen, dark spots appeared in different locations, several times on the man’s back. “There were marks in the image that came and went. Basically, they were artifacts that propagated through the image,” Palm testified. “There is no mole on the back.” When asked if Kelly’s mole would somehow not show up on the video, Palm said, “No, that’s a fairly high-contrast mole on the skin. I would expect to see it as a persistent image. [The dark spot] was not anything that was physically a part of the back of the individual.” The jury appeared to be captivated by Palm’s testimony and took notes as he explained that it was definitely possible to doctor the videotape in a matter of months, contrary to Fredericks’ testimony that it would take about 44 years to manipulate the entire 27-minute film. Palm went a step further and showed a copy of a few segments he digitally altered from the tape to show a man and a headless woman having sex on the log-cabin style hot tub, and vice versa. At times, the man and woman were both headless. “I created most of that over a couple of spare hours, in about two days,” Palm told the jury, and named several commercially available software applications that a novice could use to complete the task. On cross-examination, prosecutors asked if the video shown on the first day of testimony was altered. Palm said it did not appear to be, but he said the images were of “poor quality.” He did reiterate there is no mole on the man’s back. “I looked at it as everyone else. I made a visual inspection. There is no visible spot of a mole,” he said.

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