Empire actor Jussie Smollett still refuses to take responsibility for staging his own hate crime beating after being convicted in December, and has requested a new trial on the grounds of the court violating his constitutional rights.
Smollett, 39, was found guilty on five counts of felony disorderly conduct for faking a racially motivated beating to amp his career, and faces up to three years in prison for each felony.
He is set to be sentenced in upcoming weeks, but his lawyers filed a post-trial motion to toss the verdict or grant their client a new trial, on claims that Smollett’s constitutional rights were violated during the jury selection process.
The actor’s attorneys argued that his right to a public trial was violated over COVID-19 restrictions, which limited spectators and reporters in the courtroom.
“Even before the verdict was out, most Americans who had not seen the evidence in the courtroom, were convinced that Jussie had committed the crime,” the filing stated. “In fact, prior to and during the trial Mr. Smollett had become a lightning rod for the political divisions plaguing the country currently.”
They also said the judge “was particularly prejudicial” for refusing to allow the defense to question potential jurors during the selection process. And claimed that the court allowed “procedures and tactics” that let prosecutors nix black and gay potential jurors from being selected.
Smollet’s lawyers accused the judge of ignoring a homophobic remark by a witness who said the actor had a “pretty face,” not tossing the testimony of a witness who felt “pressured and threatened” by prosecutors to amend his account, and allowing the jury to watch the actor’s Good Morning America interview.
The filing also alleges the judge didn’t advise the jury to “cautiously scrutinize” testimony from the Osundario brothers, who Smollett paid to fake the attack, and asserted that not charging them for the incident prejudiced the jury against him.
“The State failed to prove the Defendant guilty of the charges against him beyond all reasonable doubt and failed to prove every material allegation of the indictment beyond all reasonable doubt,” court docs state.
“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.”