UPDATE, 2:26 PM: The jury in the Jussie Smollett trial have reached a verdict.
The six men and six woman are expected to reveal their decision in Cook County Judge James Linn’s courtroom within the next half hour.
PREVIOUSLY, DEC 8 PM: Although prosecutors said there was “overwhelming” evidence that Jussie Smollett staged an assault on himself in late January 2019, there will be no verdict Wednesday in the ex-Empire star’s criminal trial.
After just more than two hours of initial deliberation today on the six felony charges Smollett is facing in a chilly Chicago, the six-man and six-woman tribunal jury packed it in for the day at around 5 p.m. local time. Even though it has been fairly long days for the weeklong trial in Cook County Judge James Linn’s courtroom, proceedings were permitted to end a little earlier because one juror had a concert to attend with their child.
Ending the day, Linn told the jury to resume deliberations Thursday at 9:15 a.m. CT.
Smollett is facing up to three years behind bars if found guilty, though it was doubtful as of earlier this week that he would actually serve any time. However, the actor’s insistent testimony in his own defense has made a lack of jail time hard to justify if the jury doesn’t come back with an acquittal.
After Smollett spent nearly eight often dramatic hours on the stand Monday and Tuesday, attorneys from both sides gave fairly succinct closing arguments this morning. Openly aiming to “destroy” the defendant’s credibility, special prosecutor Daniel Webb mocked the “false testimony” he said Smollett gave in the case. Ripping Smollett for allegedly lying to police and the world about what actually happened in the early morning of January 29, 2019, Webb also went after the defense’s argument against brothers Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo’s assertion the actor paid them $3,500 to beat him up for PR value.
Webb, the ex-Iran Contra lawyer, was appointed by a federal judge in the summer of 2019 after political outrage over the homophobic and racial hate crime against Smollett started to look more and more like a self-aggrandizing hoax.
In a carefully calibrated presentation today, Webb saved particular scorn for his belief that Smollett tried to pull a fast one on the cops, the media and everyone else in the aftermath of the attack. “Besides being against the law, it is just plain wrong to outright denigrate something as serious as real hate crime and then make sure it involved words and symbols that have such historical significance in our country,” Webb told the jurors.
On the flip side, defense lawyer Nenye Uche spotlighted the Osundairo brothers as “sophisticated liars” who tried to shake down Smollett for millions and are now working in lockstep with the police and the prosecution to evade serious gun and drug charges. “They are highly intelligent, really smart, and they know how to dumb it down so you think they’re victims,” Uche exclaimed, comparing the Nigerian-born siblings to an Internet “African prince scam.”
A sometimes John Adams-citing Uche went on to say that the “entire prosecution’s case, including the foundation of the case, is built like a house of cards.” Calling the whole thing “crazy,” according to pool reports the attorney furthered the simile by adding “We all know what happens to a house of cards when you apply a little pressure – it crumbles.”
In February 2020, as Smollett failed to have new legal cases against him dismissed, Webb indicted the actor on the current six felonies, which include filing a false police report. The trial that finally kicked off on November 29 was delayed for more than a year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
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