New Trial Ordered Over Confederate Flag in Courtroom

( A black Tennessee man who was convicted to six years in prison last year by an all-white jury deliberating in a room containing a Confederate flag was granted a new trial last Friday after a ruling by Tennessee’s Criminal Appeals Court.

Tim Gilbert was sentenced in June 2020 for aggravated assault and other charges connected to an altercation in 2018. But Gilbert and his attorney argued that the Confederate symbols on display at the Giles County courthouse, as well as the racial make-up of the jury, and specific evidence allowed in the case made it impossible for Gilbert to have a fair trial.

At the time of the trial, Gilbert and his attorney were unaware that the jury deliberations were held in a room containing an antique Confederate flag and a portrait of Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederate States of America.

The deliberation room is also named for the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the Nashville organization founded in the late nineteenth century to honor Civil War ancestors and memorials.

Gilbert’s attorney filed a motion for a new trial shortly after the conviction, but a Tennessee circuit judge denied the request, so Gilbert appealed.

In its ruling on Friday, the Tennessee Criminal Appeals Court found Gilbert’s defense provided enough evidence to show how jury deliberations could have been influenced by the décor in the room. The court also made it clear that Tennessee’s attorneys didn’t adequately respond to the defense’s allegations.

In addition to addressing the Confederate paraphernalia in the jury deliberation room, the appeals court also found that the trial judge allowed a statement into evidence that should not have been admissible.

Gilbert’s attorney, who declined the New York Times request for an interview, did tell the paper that they are pleased with the appeals court ruling. Attorney Evan Baddour told the Times that there is still work to be done, “and we will continue to fight.”

Prosecutors could appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court, however, at this time it is not clear if they plan to do so.