Like a man in a china store who's so nervous about breaking a plate that he inadvertently trashes the entire store, Cook County court authorities ended up doing exactly the opposite of what they'd intended Friday morning.
After nearly six years preparing for R. Kelly's child porn trial, it took only a couple of hours for them to turn it into precisely the media circus they'd hoped to avoid.
With fans and opponents of Kelly arguing on the courtroom steps (one fan told Kelly "I love you!" as he arrived, while an antagonist carried a sign reading "World's greatest pedophile!") the public was doing its bit to create a carnival atmosphere.
But the serious nature of the crimes combined with the massive media interest in the case meant Judge Vincent Gaughan has been understandably determined to preserve order inside the court. He has hired an attorney to act as a court liason with the media, called endless meetings to decide who gets a seat, and issued extensive reporting restrictions, warning that anyone who disturbs the courtroom could be jailed.
A phalanx of sheriff's deputies checked anyone entering the courtroom twice to make sure that they were not carrying recording equipment or cameras, or holding anything that might prejudice the trial if seen by a juror. Over-zealous court staff even confiscated a courtroom artist's suduko puzzle, in case it caused a mistrial.
The nerves were to be expected. The whole world is watching and today was a big day for the court staff, too.
But amid all the egos, testiness and arguments about who could sit in which seat, with reporters being led in and out of court while the attorneys argued in private, somebody messed up.
As 150 potential jurors filed into the courtroom to hear the indictment and to finally be introduced to Kelly - the key moment, today – the side entrance to the court was slammed shut and the reporters were locked out.
It didn't take long before upset members of the press corps were invoking the Constitution of the United States. But it didn't do any good. We were stuck outside and missed it all.
Very embarassing for everyone involved. But probably not that important, in the grand scheme of things.
Monday, we'll all try again.