After spending more than five years behind bars, a Minnesota man could have a shot at a new trial after two members of the jury that convicted him confessed to racist statements that influenced their decision.
Michael Smith of Minneapolis was previously convicted of third-degree murder and spent over 10 years in prison for the crime, local station Fox 9 reported. Some months after he was released, however, officers accused Smith of criminal possession of a firearm, despite no DNA or fingerprints linking him to the gun in question.
The Minnesota man has acknowledged his past mistakes but maintained that he isn’t guilty of the new charges. His lawyer argued that the case ultimately came down to the credibility of his client or the officers who arrested him. Who was the jury panel going to believe?
Two jurors have since admitted that racially charged comments made about Smith during his trial played a part in their decision to send him back to prison. The jury foreman said one juror told the group, “Look, he’s a Black person with a previous criminal record living in North Minneapolis. You know he’s just a banger from the hood, so he’s got to be guilty.”
Smith’s grandmother, Christine Smith, said she had a feeling the jury was racially biased all along.
“It was a racist trial [at] the first trial because I could see it in the jury’s eyes — they were racist,” Smith told the news station.
The juror’s racist remarks may be enough to get Smith a new hearing by early next year and possibly a new trial.