Judge denies mistrial, tells jury to keep talking on Jussie Smollett case

Judge Steven A. Rhodes allowed the jury to view photos of Jussie Smollett’s bruised face and hear the phone call the Chicago police say he made to his manager days after he reported an attack to authorities. Smollett waited two weeks to say he was a victim of a hate crime; he said he told police that is the evidence after he stopped answering their questions about it.

We were surprised on Friday when Rhodes told the jury that Smollett asked about a forensics expert, who performed a report on the attack, just before the star’s second interview with Chicago police detectives.

— “Did it ever enter your mind while you were with a detective that you should get out of that and get somebody else?” defense attorney Todd Pugh asked.

“After all the extensive interviews that Mr. Smollett did,” Rhodes said, “it never even entered my mind.”

— Rhodes allowed the jury to hear a two-minute recording of a phone call Smollett made from the hospital, during which he told his manager, Brandon Z. Moore, that there was no way he would be mistaken for his assailants.

The defense contended the call was created for Smollett’s benefit.

— “You heard his voice? A male voice. Why is that relevant?” asked Marcia Shein, Smollett’s second defense attorney.

Rhodes said it was relevant to the “satisfaction factor.”

— Rhodes allowed the jury to see an Instagram post Smollett made in December 2017 after Donald Trump won the presidency.

— “Do you think this image of President Trump, pictured in the original Instagram post, is consistent with the statement being made in this YouTube video?” Shein asked.

“I do not think that is consistent,” Rhodes said.

Shein also asked the jury to consider Instagram posts Smollett wrote last week.

— Rhodes denied a request from the defense for a mistrial, although he did cut the jury some slack.

“It’s very rare,” Rhodes said, “for this to be awarded to one side over the other.”

After one hour of deliberation Thursday, the panel submitted questions that Rhodes declined to answer. He advised them to keep talking.

— Thursday, Thursday, Thursday. Ten minutes of notes on Friday. Ten minutes Thursday afternoon and again Friday evening.

Then five minutes at noon, and three minutes on Friday night. Jury adjourned for the weekend at 9:20 p.m. Friday.

Rhodes expects the jury to return to court Sunday afternoon to continue deliberations.

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