LaBelle Trial Delayed 1 Day

No sooner was a jury selected than proceedings in a multimillion-dollar civil trial of Patti LaBelle were delayed for one day by a judge who noted that none of the jurors was black.

Photo: AP Photo / Pat Sullivan
Patti LaBelle arrives at a Houston federal courthouse Sept. 15 for jury selection for a trial in which she is accused of ordering her bodyguards to beat a white West Point cadet as he waited for a lift home outside an airport terminal in 2011.

LaBelle is accused of ordering bodyguards to beat a white West Point cadet outside a Houston airport terminal in March 2011. U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison said he wasn’t making accusations of racism, but lawyers on both sides felt proceedings should be halted and restarted the next day with jurors selected from a larger pool of citizens, according to the Houston Chronicle.

“I am certainly not accusing anyone of anything, but some might think plausibly that this is a race sensitive case because of accusations of a racial epithet being used,” Ellison said from the bench.

A new jury was seated Sept. 16 and opening arguments were heard.

The case is expected to focus on surveillance video of the altercation between then-West Point cadet Richard King, LaBelle’s bodyguard, Efrem Holmes, and her son, Zuri Edwards.

King was near graduation from the service academy when the incident occurred. His lawyers contend he was attacked, on LaBelle’s orders, and left with a traumatic brain injury that caused permanent disability and forced his discharge from the U.S. Military Academy.

LaBelle’s lawyers claim King threw the first punch and used racial slurs and profanity. Both sides concede King was drunk.