A Black man will have a second chance at a fair trial after a Tennessee appeals court overturned his 2020 convictions.
Tim Gilbert was found guilty of assault, reckless endangerment, unlawful possession of a firearm and resisting arrest after a 2018 domestic incident that occurred on Christmas Eve. In the spring of 2019 he was indicted and the following June convicted by an all-white jury and sentenced to six years in prison.
Gilbert and his attorney also argued that an improperly admitted witness statement further violated his right to a fair trial. The issue, according to Gilbert’s legal team, is that the jury issuing the final verdict deliberated in a room marked with Confederate symbols and memorabilia.
His lawyers argued “The symbols on that wall do nothing but embolden jurors to act on racial animus,” when reaching their decision. On Dec. 3 the state’s Criminal Appeals Court ruled in favor of Gilbert’s renewed pursuit of justice.
The most visible item inside the deliberation room of the historic Pulaski Courthouse is a framed Confederate flag hanging on the wall directly across from the door, and well within eyesight of juries. Other items of memorabilia included portraits of Confederate leaders such as Confederate President Jefferson Davis and a framed letter from the United Daughters of the Confederate’s (UDC) national leader.
For several decades the room has been maintained by the UDC — a female-led organization that preserves historical Confederate items, provides aid for descendants of those who served in or helped the Confederacy, as well as openly opposes the removal of Confederate monuments in public places.
Pulaski has a population of roughly 7,500 people; 74 percent white and 21 percent Black. The city is also known as the birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan. The court’s review of the Articles of Secession and the Confederate Constitution determined the presence of the Confederate flag in the room “not only defended slavery, but endorsed it fully using dehumanizing and racist language,” and “the attempt to perpetuate the subjugation of black people.”
“The specter of racial prejudice that might be ascribed to the flag in the U.D.C. room is particularly troublesome,” concluded the court in its decision. Last year Gilbert’s attempt at a new trial was denied by Circuit Judge Stella Hargrove.
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