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Jussie Smollett’s lawyers have asked for a mistrial following an altercation with the judge and claims that he ‘physically lunged’ at them.
The former Empire actor is on trial for allegedly staging a homophobic and racist attack, however, he denies these claims and maintains that he is the victim of a genuine hate crime, according to the New York Post.
On Thursday, Smollett’s lawyers were reportedly cross-examining Olabinjo Osundairo, who claims he was paid by Smollett to stage the attack.
Osundairo was asked about his previous homophobic remarks, which he acknowledged, stating that he had used the term ‘fruity’ towards a man he thought was gay.
Judge James Linn reportedly intervened and called the line of questioning ‘collateral’ in front of the jury, which indicates that the defence bares no relevance to the alleged crime as it was in the past.
The lawyers then requested they speak to the judge privately, before claiming that Judge Linn ‘physically lunged’ at lawyer Tamara Walker when she suggested a mistrial.
This claim, however, has been strongly denied by Linn, who stated: “When you said the word mistrial on these grounds, frankly I was stunned you’d even consider a mistrial based on this.
“I marched right back behind my bench.”
According to a source, Walker continued to argue with the judge before leaving the courtroom, as she looked close to tears. Her colleagues continued to push for a mistrial.
Fellow lawyer, Heather Widell, accused the judge of ‘snarling’ in front of the jury when the prosecution called an objection and he sustained.
Widell said: “I’ve noticed snarls multiple times,” as she wanted to ensure that Linn’s non-verbal expressions were on the record.
Following this series of events, the judge moved the discussion into his private chambers for 10 minutes before the group emerged and the jury were brought back out.
He proceeded to tell the jury to ignore any comments he made to the lawyers, stating: “Sometimes words come out like ‘focus’ or ‘collateral,’ that’s not part of your consideration, that’s just me communicating with the lawyers.
“That’s just me conducting the trial the way I think it should be conducted.”
The trial then continued with Osundairo’s cross-examination.
The series of events comes at a crucial time in the trial, in which brothers, Olabingo and Abimbola Osundairo, have testified against Smollett, claiming that he paid them to douse him with gasoline and throw a noose around his neck.
Although the felony carries a prison sentence of up to three years, experts have speculated that, if convicted, Smollett will likely be ordered to do community service instead.
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