Will Jussie Smollett testify at his trial?


Actor Jussie Smollett’s trial is set to resume on Monday, and it looks like there are plenty of dramatic turns left in a saga that has spent nearly three years in the headlines.

Smollett’s lawyers have yet to say whether the actor will speak, but seasoned lawyers say it’s almost certain the “Empire” star will have to tell her story herself to convince the jury.

The defense is expected to call several other witnesses in an attempt to dig holes in Special Prosecutor Dan Webb’s theory that Smollett hired brothers Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo and organized the attack himself.

Lawyers for Smollett have repeatedly raised the question of whether police had sufficiently searched for leads regarding a woman who said she saw a suspicious white man with a rope in the hours leading up to the attack, as well as a police officer. security in the River North area who claimed to have seen a white man. in a ski mask passed in front of him at the time of the alleged attack.

The defense team also questioned police officers at the stand about a taxi driver who allegedly saw one of the Osundairo brothers using a cell phone in his taxi that night, contradicting the two brothers’ claims that they would have left their phones at home at Smollett’s request.

Judge James Linn told jurors on Thursday he expected to send the case to them for deliberation no later than Monday or Tuesday after giving them a long weekend without Friday.

The defense team began calling witnesses on Thursday after Webb shut down the state’s case, closing with testimony from each of the Osundairos who took two days of trial.

The brothers said Smollett paid them to fake a hate crime in which they would brutalize him, shouting gay and racial slurs while wearing “Make America Great Again” hats, then tying a noose over his head and spraying him. bleach.

Olabinjo Osundairo (center left, in blue), Abimbola Osundairo (center right, in black) pray with their lawyer and a supporter as they enter the Leighton courthouse for Jussie Smollett’s trial on Thursday.
Ashlee Rezin / Sun-Times

Smollett’s motive, they said, was dissatisfaction with the way the TV studio behind his hit show “Empire” handled its security after receiving a hate mail – which prosecutors also said the actor had manufactured. Smollett, they said, organized the attack near a police surveillance camera in order to obtain video of the assault that he could post on social media.

Late Thursday, Smollett’s former music director said he was on the phone with the actor when “he blew himself up”. Brandon Moore said he spoke around midnight from Los Angles about details of an upcoming gig Smollett was going to perform at when he heard someone use an anti-gay slang.

Moore said he overheard Smollett responding to the person, then overheard brawls until the actor apparently dropped his phone. When Smollett came back online, he told Moore that he had been jumped and “looked panicked … and out of breath.” Moore told him to go home.

Dr Robert Turelli, who treated Smollett in the emergency room at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, said Smollett had cuts on his face, redness around his neck and complained of pain in his ribs.

Smollett was given Tylenol for the pain, according to Turelli, who said Smollett’s medical records indicated he had refused other medications. A CT scan and x-rays were also ordered, which ruled out further injuries. In cross-examination, Turelli said he had no way of knowing how Smollett was injured.

The last defense witness on Thursday was Los Angeles-based Smollett publicist Pamela Sharp, who described the actor as “a very nice person” who “always paid his bills on time.”

The former star of

Former “Empire” star Jussie Smollett raises his fist as he enters the Leighton courthouse on Thursday morning.
Ashlee Rezin / Sun-Times

Smollett’s career was reaching new heights at the time of the attack, Sharp said. He was directing episodes of “Empire” and was making $ 2 million per season at that time. He was also preparing for a “historic” storyline on the series where his character would marry in the nationally televised first wedding of a black gay man.

Sharp said she believed Smollett was innocent – a comment the judge immediately told the jury to ignore – and said she doubted he was involved in an attack that could damage his face , which she described as “the key to every actor’s career”.

April Preyar, a Chicago defense attorney who watched most of the trial as one of the few spectators in the courtroom gallery, said she came to the trial assuming the Smollett’s case would be a slam dunk for the prosecution.

After a four-day trial, Preyar believes the defense put some nicks in the state’s record – but to get an acquittal, Smollett must testify with a plausible story and a personality that appeals to jurors.

“He has to take a stand. He’s the only one who can tell the story, the only one who was there besides the brothers, ”said Preyar.

Attorney Kulmeet “Bob” Galhotra, who has followed the case closely online and in the press, said he still thinks jurors are likely to convict, simply because Smollett’s version of the case – that the Osundairos were secretly homophobic and attempted to exploit openly gay Smollett people to boost their acting careers – is more convoluted than the idea that Smollett just planned the attack and hired them.

“Corn [Smollett] has to take the stand to say it, ”said Galhotra, who added that the actor will need all of his acting skills to keep his cool during cross-examination.

“He has to perform, but it’s always going to be problematic for the defense. “

On the witness stand, Preyar said she could only assume that Smollett would feel good.

“I think he’s testifying,” she said. “And [the trial] will be summed up, who does the jury prefer: Ola and Abel, or Jussie? “


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