A Black man’s criminal conviction was overturned in Tennessee after
an appeals court said the jury, which deliberated in a room adorned
with a Confederate flag and a portrait of Jefferson Davis, had been
“exposed” to “improper influence,” reports NBC News.
In a 31-page decision issued Friday, the state’s criminal court of
appeals ordered a new trial for the man, Tim Gilbert. The court also
ruled that during Gilbert’s trial, prosecutors improperly admitted a
statement from a key witness.
Gilbert was arrested after a family dispute on Christmas Eve three
years ago in Murfreesboro, southeast of Nashville, according to the
decision. A grand jury indicted him the following April on charges of
reckless endangerment, unlawful possession of a firearm and
resisting arrest, and he was convicted in a jury trial last year.
Both juries deliberated in the “U.D.C. room” in the Giles County
Courthouse, which is maintained by the United Daughters of the
Confederacy, the decision says. The judge who wrote the decision,
James Curwood Witt Jr., noted that it wasn’t clear how the private
group came to “possess” the room nearly a century ago or add its
emblem to the door in 2005.
Inside the room were the flag, portraits of Confederate leaders and a
framed letter from the U.D.C.’s national leader. Gilbert’s lawyers
argued that having a room “festooned with Confederate memorabilia
and maintained by the U.D.C. implied that the court ‘subscribes to the
confederate principles’ and that to many, ‘the confederacy and racism
go hand in hand,'” the decision says.

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