A black man in Tennessee will get a new trial after being convicted by an all-white jury who deliberated in a room adorned with Confederate symbols.
Tim Gilbert, who was sentenced to six years in prison in 2020 for aggravated assault and other charges stemming from a December 2018 dispute, was granted a new trial Friday by the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals.
An attorney for Gilbert argued his right to a fair trial was violated because the jury deliberated in a room at the Giles County courthouse with an antique Confederate flag and a portrait of Confederate President Jefferson Davis hanging on a wall.
The appeals court agreed, stating in a 31-page ruling that Giles County erred in its maintenance of the “inherently prejudicial” room named after the United Daughters of the Confederacy – an organization founded in the 1890s in Nashville to memorialize Confederate Civil War soldiers, the Tennessean reported.
“Because Giles County may not convey any message to the jury, we conclude that permitting the jury to deliberate in a room filled with Confederate memorabilia exposed the jury to extraneous information or improper outside influence,” the ruling reads.
The appeals court also determined the trial court in Gilbert’s case erred by allowing the “erroneous admission” of a statement from a key witness that “cannot be classified as harmless,” according to the ruling.
“Accordingly, we reverse the judgments of the trial court and remand the case for a new trial,” the court wrote.
A Tennessee circuit judge had previously denied Gilbert’s request for a new trial in August 2020, the Tennessean reported.
An attorney for Gilbert, 56, declined an interview request, but said he was pleased with the ruling, the New York Times reported.
“There’s still a lot of work to be done, and we will continue to fight,” attorney Evan Baddour told the newspaper in a text message.
It’s unclear whether prosecutors intend to appeal the ruling to the Tennessee Supreme Court. They did not return messages Saturday, the Times reported.
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