Jussie Smollett’s lawyers made a shocking allegation against the judge in the former Empire star’s case last week and tried to have a mistrial declared as a result. One of Smollett’s lawyers claimed that when she stepped over to the judge for a sidebar, the judge “lunged” at her. After an emotional argument with the judge, the lawyer tearfully exited the courtroom. Here’s a breakdown of what happened and why it came to such a dramatic conclusion.
Background On Jussie Smollett Alleged Hate Crime Hoax
Jussie Smollett was once a rising star thanks to his key role in the musical drama Empire, which also starred Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard, but his star power began to dim rapidly in early 2019. Smollett called the police from his apartment in Chicago and reported that he’d been the victim of a racial attack. As the investigation into the actor’s allegations went on, however, evidence emerged that indicated that Smollett himself had orchestrated the incident.
Though the case has taken some twists and turns over the years, with Chicago officials infuriating many in the public after they announced they were dropping all charges against Smollett a few months after the alleged attack — a decision that was swiftly reversed — it finally got its day in court.
Almost three years after the incident, Smollett has defended himself by alleging that the two brothers, who prosecutors claim were paid by the actor to fake the attack, were homophobic. One brother, the defense insisted, was a disgruntled ex-lover who made up his claims. The investigation into Smollett’s alleged actions wasn’t without its drama, so it makes sense that the court case would follow suit.
Tense Moment Erupts In Court
One of Smollett’s lawyers, Tamara Walker, was cross-examining one of the brothers, Olabinjo Osundairo, when the tense moment with the judge occurred. Osundairo, now 30 years old, had just admitted to using the phrase “fruity ass” to describe a man he’d suspected was gay when Walker asked if Smollett, an openly gay man, knew he’d used the homophobic term in the past.
Judge James Linn, who presides over the case, called the line of questioning “collateral” in front of the jury, meaning it didn’t have any relevance to Smollett’s alleged crimes because it was a past event. Walker requested a sidebar, which is when she alleges that Linn “lunged” at her.
Judge Denies Defense’s Allegations
Walker presented the judge with a motion to declare a mistrial over his use of the word “collateral” and claimed he “physically lunged” at her, a claim which Linn vigorously denies. “When you said the word mistrial on these grounds, frankly I was stunned you’d even consider a mistrial based on this,” Linn said. He continued, “I marched right back behind my bench,” before adding that he did not lunge at Walker.
After arguing with the judge for an unspecified amount of time, during which Walker was openly emotional, she exited the courtroom alongside her mother, who had been in attendance. It’s unclear just what effect this dramatic moment will have on the case, though Judge Linn did later tell the jury to disregard his “collateral” comment. “Sometimes words come out like ‘focus’ or ‘collateral,’ that’s not part of your consideration, that’s just me communicating with the lawyers,” Linn explained. We will continue monitoring this case as it plays out in court.
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