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Conrad Black took plenty of notes during his long trial last year. He'd have thoughts and jot them down. It's what lots of defendants do while their lawyers try to get them off. Black wouldn't have made much of an impression on the jury if he'd sat there reading a book.
Black was a business executive accused of financial crimes. Reporters indicated that he was a colorful guy, but nobody tried to make anything of his note taking.
R. Kelly's a different matter. He's a singer up on sex charges involving an infamous video and an underage girl, circumstances that bring out the virtuoso in a reporter. David Streitfeld wrote in the New York Times Tuesday that Kelly seemed to tune out the "wrangling" during jury selection. "Instead he spent most of his time intensely scribbling on index cards, taking dictation from a voice only he could hear."