Jurors in Smollett trial dismissed for day; deliberations to resume Thursday

Chicago Crime

CHICAGO — After more than a week of testimony and arguments, jurors in the Jussie Smollett criminal trial started deliberations Wednesday afternoon.

The 12-person jury started deliberating shortly before 3 p.m. after listening to several hours of closing and rebuttal arguments from the special prosecutors and Smollett’s defense attorneys.

Dan Webb, who leads the special prosecution, told the jurors that Smollett had repeatedly lied to them while testifying earlier in the week, and that the evidence of the former “Empire” actor’s guilt was “overwhelming.”

Smollett, 39, was charged last year with six counts of disorderly conduct after he allegedly lied to police about a phony hate crime attack in Streeterville that, prosecutors say, he orchestrated on a frigid night in January 2019.

“Mr. Smollett went on that witness stand, took an oath that he’s going to tell the truth [and] he made many, many false statements to you,” Webb said. “He lied under oath to you as jurors.”

In an effort to undercut the defense’s argument that police rushed their initial investigation, Webb also pointed to the 3,000 hours that two dozen Chicago Police officers spent investigating the case after the attack was first reported.

“I’m not saying the Chicago Police Department is perfect, that’s not what I’m here to do, but they busted their buns on this case,” Webb said.

Nenye Uche, who gave the closing argument for Smollett’s defense, cast Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo — brothers and the prosecution’s star witnesses — as compulsive liars themselves. He also said the prosecution’s case “is built like a house of cards.”

“They’re certified liars,” Uche said of the Osundairo brothers. “They lied to this court, they’ve lied to this jury.”

Offering the special prosecution’s rebuttal argument, Samuel Mendenhall repeatedly told the jury, “Facts matter. Truth Matters. Evidence matters.”

Judge James Linn dismissed the jurors shortly after 5 p.m. Wednesday and told them to return to the Leighton Criminal Courthouse at 9:15 a.m. Thursday to continue deliberations.

Smollett was charged last year after Cook County Judge Michael Toomin appointed Webb the special prosecutor in the case. Webb was appointed after the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office quietly moved to dismiss the initial charges filed against Smollett in 2019.

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