Jussie Smollett files for new trial, claims ‘errors’ in jury selection process
The embattled actor's attorneys claim he was denied constitutional rights before being convicted of falsely reporting a hate crime
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After being convicted in December of staging a hate crime in 2019, Jussie Smollett has requested that the court revisit the case, claiming his constitutional rights were violated and his legal team was excluded from participating in selecting the jury.
According to TMZ, Smollett and his attorneys recently filed paperwork seeking either a reversal of the verdict or a new trial after the actor was found guilty on five out of six felony counts of disorderly conduct for making false reports to the police.
In the 83-page document, NBC reported Smollett contends there were “numerous trial errors leading up to the trial and during the pendency of the trial,” including wrongfully preventing his legal team from helping screen potential jurors for possible impartiality.
The “Empire” actor’s lawyers say the court barred them from questioning a juror who revealed to the court that she had several current or former law enforcement officials in her family. According to NBC, the motion for a new trial states the court also did not inquire any further into the juror’s statements.
The filings also contain claims that prosecutors demonstrated a pattern of racism in their selection of jurors and pressured witnesses to give false testimony, TMZ reported.
Smollett’s attorneys additionally deemed prosecutors’ evidence to be “insufficient and inconsistent so that no reasonable trier of fact could have found Mr. Smollett guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and thus there is evidence that the jury verdict was contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence,” NBC reported the motion states.
“As such, the Defendant now respectfully requests that his convictions be vacated or in the alternative, that the Court grant the Defendant a new trial,” the paperwork reads.
As theGrio has extensively reported, Smollett, who is Black and gay, told police in January 2019 that he was a victim of a racist and homophobic attack. Following an investigation, Chicago police alleged Smollett orchestrated and lied about the hate crime, causing a legal and media frenzy that made international headlines.
The jury reportedly deliberated for nine hours over the course of two days before finding Smollett guilty.
According to TMZ, the 39-year-old’s defense team claims in the recently filed documents that members of the media and public were wrongfully prohibited from the courtroom during the high-profile trial.
As reported by the Chicago Tribune on Friday, Judge James Linn, who previously ruled that no news cameras would be allowed into the Cook County courtroom where Smollett is expected to be sentenced on March 10, reversed the order after a hearing on Thursday.
Linn reportedly changed his mind after Steven Mandell, a lawyer representing local news stations, convinced the judge that allowing cameras could increase the transparency of the case, which he said is of “critical importance to the public.”
theGrio’s Tonya Pendleton contributed to this report.
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