A Tennessee appeals court overturned a Black man’s convictions in 2020, giving him a second shot at a fair trial.
After a domestic incident on Christmas Eve in 2018, Tim Gilbert was found guilty of assault, reckless endangerment, unauthorized possession of a firearm, and resisting arrest. Indicted in the spring of 2019, he was found guilty by an all-white jury in June and sentenced to six years in jail.
Gilbert and his lawyer further claimed that an incorrectly allowed witness statement infringed on his right to a fair trial even more. According to Gilbert’s legal team, the issue is that the jury that decided the case discussed in a room decorated with Confederate insignia and memorabilia.
When reaching their conclusion, his lawyers contended that “the emblems on that wall do nothing but empower jurors to act on racial animus.” Gilbert’s fresh pursuit of justice was upheld by the state’s Criminal Appeals Court on Dec. 3.
The most obvious thing within the historic Pulaski Courthouse’s deliberation room is a framed Confederate flag hanging on the wall right across from the door, and well within jurors’ sight. Portraits of Confederate figures such as Confederate President Jefferson Davis and a framed letter from the national leader of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) were among the other things on display.
The UDC – a female-led organization that preserves historical Confederate artefacts, provides aid to relatives of individuals who served in or assisted the Confederacy, and openly opposes the removal of Confederate monuments in public areas — has maintained the space for decades.
Pulaski has a population of about 7,500 people, with 74% of whites and 21% of blacks. The city is also renowned as the Ku Klux Klan’s birthplace. The display of the Confederate flag in the room “not only defended slavery, but approved it fully using demeaning and racist rhetoric,” according to the court’s analysis of the Articles of Secession and the Confederate Constitution, and “the attempt to prolong the oppression of black people.”
The court concluded in its decision, “The specter of racial prejudice that might be ascribed to the flag in the U.D.C. room is particularly troubling.” Gilbert’s request for a fresh trial was granted by Circuit Judge Stella Hargrove last year.