A state court of appeals Tennessee ruled Friday (December 3) that a Black man should be granted a new trial after discovering the jury in his case used a room decked out in Confederate memorabilia.
The all-white jury in Tim Gilbert's trial deliberated in a room of the Giles County courthouse named after the United Daughters of Confederacy clad with a portrait of Confederate president Jefferson Davis, a Confederate flag, and other items saluting the South's mid-1800s efforts.
Gilbert's attorneys argued the room used for jury deliberation was "inherently prejudicial" and violated his constitutional right to a fair trial, impartial jury, due process, and equal protection, according to court documents, The New York Times reported.
Gilbert, 56, was arrested in 2018 on aggravated assault charges and was denied new trial last year by a lower court.
The "slavery and subjugation of Black people are inextricably intertwined with the Confederacy," Judge James Curwood Witt Jr, wrote, adding, "those ideals are antithetical to the American system of jurisprudence and cannot be tolerated."
Attorney Jonathan Harwell of the Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers who helped Gilbert's legal challenge, told The Washington Post the items in the room are harmful to defendants and jurors of color and said justice advocates are "hopeful" after the state's decision.
"If a fairly conservative court in Tennessee can say that, maybe that's a sign of hopefulness for our country that we're moving in the right way," Harwell said.