New trial after jury met in room with Confederate symbols

Audacy - The Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee appeals court has granted a new trial for a Black man who was convicted of aggravated assault by an all-white jury that deliberated in a room containing Confederate symbols.

The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals ruled Friday that Tim Gilbert deserves a new trial on charges stemming from a December 2018 altercation, The Tennessean reported.

Gilbert was sentenced to six years in prison after his conviction on charges of aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, unlawful possession of a weapon by a convicted felon and resisting arrest.

His attorney appealed, arguing that Gilbert's right to a fair trial was violated because the jury deliberated in a room adorned with an antique Confederate flag and a portrait of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

The appeal court’s ruling came after a circuit court judge denied Gilbert’s motion for a new trial.

The appeals court ruling said that allowing the jury to decide whether Gilbert was innocent or guilty in a room at the Giles County Courthouse maintained by the United Daughters of the Confederacy “exposed the jury to extraneous prejudicial information and violated his constitutional rights to a fair trial conducted by an impartial jury.”

The trial court also made a mistake by allowing a challenged witness statement, an error that “cannot be classified as harmless,” the appeals court said.