Actor Jussie Smollett filed paperwork seeking either a new trial in Chicago or a not guilty verdict two months after he was convicted of falsely reporting a hate crime against himself in 2019.
The former “Empire” star filed the 83-page document claiming his constitutional rights were violated when the court prevented his legal team from actively participating in the jury selection process. The story was first reported by TMZ.
In documents obtained by NBC News, Smollett and his attorneys argue that the court “made numerous trial errors leading up to the trial and during the pendency of the trial.”
They say that they were not allowed to ask questions of the potential jurors which prevented them from discovering any possible biases or “questionable impartiality” toward Smollett given the case being high-profile.
The filings describe one instance where a juror informed the court that several of her family members were either current or former law enforcement. The court did not inquire further into her statements and did not allow Smollett’s attorneys to do so, the document states.
The actor’s defense team also said the evidence presented by prosecutors during the trial was “insufficient and inconsistent so that no reasonable trier of fact could have found Mr. Smollett guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and thus there is evidence that the jury verdict was contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence.”
“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,” the filing says.
Smollett, 39, was found guilty of five of the six charges against him, including felony disorderly conduct. He was found not guilty of aggravated battery.
The charges all stemmed from a January 2019 report where Smollett alleged that he had been brutally assaulted in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood.
The actor, who is Black and gay, said two men punched him, kicked him, used racist and homophobic slurs, threw a chemical in his face, and wrapped a noose around his neck.
The police investigation led to the arrests of brothers Abimbola and Olabingo Osundairo, but they were released. Smollett was then arrested on Feb. 21, 2019.
Authorities said at the time that Smollett had recruited the brothers to stage an attack in order to advance his career, a claim the actor denies.