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Black man granted new trial due to confederate symbols in jury room

A Black man who was tried by an all white jury in a courtroom with confederate memorabilia has been granted a new trial.

Tim Gilbert was arrested in 2018 for aggravated assault. The 56-year old was sentenced to six years in prison last year for aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, unlawful possession of a weapon by a convicted felon, and resisting arrest.

However, the jurors, who were all white, decided he was guilty in a courtroom where a portrait of Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, stood, along with Confederate flags lining the walls. Gilbert’s legal team filed an appeal, arguing that the Confederate symbols and the racial makeup of the jury resulted in an unfair trial for him.

On Friday, the Tennessee Criminal Appeals Court ruled to give Gilbert a new trial. The appeals court stated that the courtroom’s decorations in itself presented a statement that was “inadmissible”. Additionally, a challenged witness statement had been allowed by the trial court, which was a mistake that the appeals court said, “cannot be classified as harmless.”

Over a year ago, a Tennessee circuit judge denied Gilbert’s request for a new trial. This time, the court, who voted unanimously to give Gilbert a new trial, addressed the issues, “Because the State failed to sufficiently rebut the presumption that the defendant was prejudiced by the jury’s exposure to the Confederate memorabilia in the UDC Room, the defendant is entitled to a new trial,” the ruling read. “Accordingly, we reverse the judgments of the trial court and remand the case for a new trial.”

ARTICLE: RITA VOGT

MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE

PHOTO CREDITS: NEW YORK TIMES

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