Jussie Smollett trial: Jurors set to begin second day of deliberations Thursday

The jury of six men and six women deliberated for more than two hours to finalize court proceedings Wednesday and is due to return by 9:15 a.m. CT.

The evidence being considered includes testimony from Smollett, as well as from two acquaintances he knew from the set of the television show “Empire,” who testified in court last week that Smollett had recruited them to participate in the scheme.

The trial stems from Smollett’s alleged actions near downtown Chicago in January 2019, when he told authorities that two men assaulted him and tied a rope around his neck. Smollett, who is black and gay, said he was subjected to racist and homophobic insults during the attack, including the hearing: “This is MAGA country.”

Smollett took the stand Monday and maintained his innocence throughout the ordeal, denying that he planned the attack with the help of Bola and Ola Osundairo. He pleaded not guilty to six serious disorderly conduct offenses on suspicion of making false reports to the police.
Defense attorney Nenye Uche argued during closing arguments Wednesday that the Osundairo brothers were lying in court about Smollett and were only interested in their own fame and attention.

“They are criminals. They are the worst kind of criminals,” Uche told the jury.

However, prosecutors say that during the investigation, it became clear to authorities that the reported hate crime was actually a hoax. During closing arguments Wednesday, Special Counsel Dan Webb accused Smollett of lying in court and claimed he lacked credibility in the entire case.

“You put your common sense and intelligence on the jury box,” Webb began. “Without a doubt, Mr. Smollett did exactly what we accused him of.”

Several pieces of evidence validate his case, says prosecution

Webb set out in his closing statement six key pieces of evidence to show how Smollett allegedly carried out the hoax.

The first was withholding medical, DNA and cell phone evidence from police. “Heavily censored” cell phone records were produced for jurors, showing no phone calls to Bola Osundairo, although Webb noted that in the four to five days prior to the alleged attack there were five phone calls, 40 text messages, and nine Instagram direct messages. .

“Mr. Smollett did not want the crime solved,” Webb told the jury. “I wanted the media exposure, but I didn’t want the brothers arrested.”

Jury wraps up first day of deliberations in Jussie Smollett's alleged misleading hate crime trial

Second, Webb accused Smollett of misleading police about the race of the attackers, saying he “wants the police to look for someone White.” The Osundairo brothers are black. Smollett said during testimony that he was never sure the perpetrators were white, but “assumed” and was “sure” he was saying they had pale skin from the start.

The third piece of evidence Webb noted was “tampering with the rope” that was seen around Smollett’s neck early in the morning of the alleged attack, first on the surveillance camera when the actor initially returned to his apartment and second on the body camera when he arrived. police. .

Initially it was “exactly the way Ola told them (jurors) he left it,” but then, Webb said, Smollett “fiddled” with the rope, amid the groans of the Smollett family as almost everyone shook their heads.

Smollett had testified that he took off the rope and sweater at one point, but then put them back on for police to see when they arrived.

The fourth piece that Webb emphasized was that the Osundairo brothers could not have attacked Smollett without prior knowledge. He also criticized Smollett’s statements that he went to a grocery store at “2 am in the middle of the polar vortex in this comfortable condo.”

The final pieces of the prosecution’s argument included medical evidence that there were no serious injuries, a police interview in February 2019, and a text message to Bola Osundairo.

Webb told jurors that Smollett wanted the brothers to know that he was going to keep his mouth shut, in the hope that they, too, would keep their mouths shut, and no one would know.

“I was hoping the Osundairo brothers would not cooperate with the police,” Webb said. “He was exposed, and now we are in a trial. That is what happened.”

Jussie Smollett (center) leaves the Leighton Criminal Court building as the jury begins deliberating during her trial on December 8, 2021, in Chicago.

Defense Says Prosecutors Failed to Defend Their Case

Uche, the defense attorney, told the jury several times not to believe most of the testimony given by any of Osundairo’s brothers, including why Smollett wrote one of them a check for $ 3,500, something that he called a “fundamental part of the prosecution’s case.” . “Prosecutors have argued throughout the trial that the check was issued as payment for organizing the bogus attack.

Referring to testimony given by Smollett’s publicist Pamela Sharp earlier in the trial, and the $ 3,500 Smollett had paid her, Uche said that it was normal for celebrities to pay large sums of money for services.

“So Pam Sharp is also planning a hoax with Mr. Smollett? Ridiculous!” Uche told the jury.

Jussie Smollett denies organizing an attack, testifies that she had a sexual relationship with a prosecution witness

The attorney said detectives assigned to the case did not conduct a full and thorough investigation, and that Smollett was telling the truth about going out and looking for food.

Uche described Smollett as someone who came to appreciate the city of Chicago and not someone who would perpetrate the crime he is accused of committing.

“Go to Obama town and pretend there are Trump sympathizers running around in MAGA hats? Give me a break,” Uche said.

Saying that he needed the jury to be his “constitutional warriors,” Uche urged them not to try to act like investigators when deliberating, but to simply ask whether the prosecution had met its burden of proof. He told them not to act like “Sherlock Holmes” when they came to their verdict.

Uche called much of the evidence presented against Smollett during the trial as “nonsense” and told the jury that “you cannot convict a person no matter how they feel, especially an innocent man, without evidence.”

CNN’s Omar Jiménez, Bill Kirkos and Ashley Killough reported from Chicago, wrote Travis Caldwell from Atlanta. Eric Levenson and Jason Hanna contributed to this report.

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