Jussie Smollett

Jussie Smollett Trial Updates: Latest From Court as Jurors Selected

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Sandra Torres has more.

Jurors were selected Monday as former "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett prepares to stand trial on charges that he staged a racist attack on himself.

Smollett, a Black and openly gay actor, reported to Chicago police that he was the victim of a hate crime that garnered national attention. Nearly three years later, Smollett is about to stand trial on charges that he staged the whole thing.

He was charged with felony disorderly conduct after law enforcement and prosecutors said he lied to police about what happened in the early morning hours of Jan. 29, 2019, in downtown Chicago. He has pleaded not guilty.

Here's the latest from the courtroom:

EXPLAINER: What Charges Does Jussie Smollett Face at Trial?

The twists, turns and oddities of the legal saga surrounding Jussie Smollett’s claim in 2019 that he was the target of a racist and homophobic attack in Chicago have culminated in an actual trial, which enters its first full day of testimony Tuesday.

Initial charges brought in February 2019 that accused the former “Empire” actor of faking the assault were soon after tossed. But in February 2020, after a special prosecutor looked into the case, a new six-count indictment was filed.

The AP has a detailed explanation of the charges he faces.

--Webb finished his opening statements at about 6:20 p.m. He went about 1 hour and 15 minutes.

--Special prosecutor Dan Webb says Jussie Smollett hatched the fake hate crime idea so that his studio would take more seriously a real hate letter it had received.

--Social distancing concerns have slowed down the Smollett trial. The courtroom is only approved for 57. With 21 media, 15 jurors and attorneys, the courtroom is over the limit. Some reporters were asked to stand outside. 

-- Opening statements began at about 4:50 p.m.

-- A jury of 12, plus three alternates, has been selected.

-- Eight of 16 dismissed in second round of potential jurors. Seven more were sworn in, for a total of 13 jurors selected so far. Judge is now questioning five more as potential alternates. It remained unclear how many alternates the judge is seeking.

-- So far, four men and two women selected for the jury.

-- Ten potential jurors have been dismissed so far, leaving six to serve on the jury. Questioning continues for a different set of prospective jurors.

-- No jurors selected so far. Sixteen potential jurors have questioned as of just after noon. Jurors are being asked about their TV viewing habits, specifically "Empire" and TMZ. 

Only one woman, so far, questioned her own ability to remain unbiased. She says she has a daughter who is gay and researched this case because it happened downtown where her daughter works. 

Judge James B. Linn is hoping to seat his jury today and begin the trial. 

--Among the potential witnesses who could be called to testify in the trial were 20 names, including the Osundairo brothers and officers to whom Smollett reported the crimes to. One prospective juror raised his hand and said he knew one of the potential witnesses.

--Smollett and attorneys in the courtroom are introduced to potential jurors.

-- Judge expects to seat jury Monday, preparing to continue until 7 p.m. if necessary. Trial is expected to last for the remainder of this week, possibly into early next week.

--Jurors are sworn in as the judge emphasizes that defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty, calling it the "bedrock of our society."

-- Judge begins hearing other cases via Zoom as courtroom waits for potential jurors to arrive

-- Judge says he is hopeful they’ll get a jury with the 50 people selected.

-- Smollett hugged his mother and got a dose of hand sanitizer from his sister Jurnee before he approached the table. The family then left the courtroom due to capacity limitations.

-- Smollett arrives at the courthouse at around 9 a.m.

Jussie Smollett arrived at the Chicago courthouse where his trial is slated to begin Monday with jury selection.
NBC Chicago/Associated Press