Story at a glance
- A new trial has been ordered for a Black man whose trial’s all-white jury deliberated in a room displaying pieces of Confederate history.
- The jury sentenced Tim Gilbert in June 2020 to six years for aggravated assault and charges related to a 2018 incident.
- Gilbert and his attorney argued the defendant’s right to a fair trial was impeded by a jury who convened in a room displaying both a Confederate flag and a portrait of Jefferson Davis.
A new trial has been ordered for a Black man whose trial’s all-white jury deliberated in a room displaying pieces of Confederate history.
The jury sentenced Tim Gilbert in June 2020 to six years for aggravated assault and charges related to a 2018 incident, The Tennessean reported. But Gilbert and his attorney argued the defendant’s right to a fair trial was impeded as they were unaware the jury convened in a room at the Giles County courthouse displaying a Confederate flag and a portrait of Jefferson Davis.
The room is reportedly named for the United Daughters of the Confederacy and contains other pieces of memorabilia.
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Three judges on the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals agreed with the defense on Friday that Gilbert’s jury was exposed to “extraneous and prejudicial information and violated his constitutional rights to a fair trial conducted by an impartial jury.” The judges agreed with a previous legal conclusion that flags and symbols have the “capacity to communicate messages pertaining to, say, a government’s identity, values, or military strength.”
“The flag displayed in the jury room is no different,” the court said. “Its original purpose was to ‘knit the loyalty’ of those in the Confederate states ‘to a flag’ that conveyed the political ideals of the Confederacy.”
The court of appeals additionally said it erred by “admitting the challenged witness statement, and that error cannot be classified as harmless.”
Friday’s ruling reportedly occurred a year after a circuit judge denied a motion for a new trial.
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