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Jussie Smollett Seeking Retrial — Or Not-Guilty Verdict — Months After Conviction

Citing the jury’s “questionable impartiality,” lawyers for actor Jussie Smollett asked a Chicago judge to toss his conviction or grant a new trial.

By Chambolion Fairley
Jussie Smollett

Lawyers for Jussie Smollett asked a Chicago judge on Friday to reverse his December conviction or grant him a new trial. 

The former "Empire" star and his lawyers filed an 83-page brief demanding a different outcome, claiming that Smollett’s constitutional rights had been violated after the court prevented his team from fully participating in the selection of the jury, according to NBC News, among other errors.

The filings claim that Smollett's original legal team was not allowed to ask potential jurors any questions, which allegedly prevented them from discovering any biases toward or "questionable impartiality" against Smollett. 

In particular, lawyers cite a moment during which a juror, later seated, informed the court that several of her family members worked in law enforcement. The court did not inquire into these statements any further and did not allow Smollett’s attorneys to do so, according to NBC News. 

Court documents obtained by NBC News reveal that Smollett's attorneys also argued that the court "made numerous trial errors leading up to the trial and during the pendency of the trial.”

It further states that evidence from Smollett’s trial was “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.”

That jury convicted Smollett on five of six felony counts of disorderly conduct for telling police he had been allegedly assaulted for being Black and gay. 

Smollett said that he was attacked late at night in downtown Chicago in January 2019 by two men who yelled racist and homophobic slurs while wrapping a noose around his neck; he testified in his own defense at trial. Police and prosecutors said that Smollett had arranged the attack with two brothers, Abimbola and Olabingo Osundairo, who he paid $3,500. 

While the felony charges on which he was convicted could carry a sentence of up to 3 years in prison, legal experts have argued that Smollett is more likely to be put on probation and ordered to do community services  

Smollett is set to return to court for sentencing on March 10