There is an interesting hearing to be held in Minneapolis where a court will decide whether a new trial is warranted for Michael Smith, who has a record of offenses including fourth-degree assault convictions in 2005 and 2006. He is challenging his conviction four years ago after two jurors have stated that their votes were swayed by another juror calling him a “banger from the hood.” While statements of prosecutors are often the basis for post-conviction appeals, this is a statement from other jurors in deliberations that are rarely the subject of such detailed review.
Smith was given 15 years without parole under the Armed Career Criminal Act. It added that he was convicted of third-degree murder in 2001, and he also served two prison stints from a pair of fourth-degree assault convictions in 2005 and 2006.
The foreman told the court that a juror stated “Look, he is a black person with a previous criminal record living in North Minneapolis. You know he’s just a banger from the hood, so he’s got to be guilty.”
The foreman said that he remained bothered over the verdict and decided to come forward to allege that racism impacted the jury. There are cases where racism in the jury room has been alleged. However, it is relatively rare for the discussion between jurors to be the basis for a new trial. This type of comment is not necessarily unique and, standing alone, would not be viewed by many courts as sufficient basis for a new trial.
What do you think?