Symbols of the Confederacy filled the room where an all-White Tennessee jury last year decided to convict Tim Gilbert, a Black man.

Gold lettering on the door welcomed people to the “U.D.C. Room” honoring the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Framed on the wall: the flag known as the “Blood Stained Banner.” A portrait of Confederate leader Jefferson Davis watched over the deliberations.

Three state appeals court judges agreed last week that Gilbert, 55, deserves a new trial on counts of aggravated assault and other charges. They said that some evidence in Gilbert’s trial was improperly admitted and that officials failed to show that the Confederate memorabilia did not interfere with the verdict. The defendant had said the decorations “embolden” juries to act with racial prejudice.

The “slavery and the subjugation of black people are inextricably intertwined with the Confederacy,” wrote Judge James Curwood Witt Jr., and those ideas “are antithetical to the American system of jurisprudence and cannot be tolerated.”

The ruling is the latest repudiation of government-sanctioned tributes increasingly protested as symbols of hate rather than Southern heritage. A record number of Confederate monuments came down last year amid national outcry over police violence and racism against Black Americans. The last state to have the Confederate battle emblem on its flag, Mississippi, removed the symbol last year.

The Tennessee decision is a victory for the community, said attorney Jonathan Harwell, who helped the Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers back Gilbert’s case for appeal. The Confederate tributes were a menace to defendants and jurors of color alike, he said.

The court spoke plainly about the Confederacy’s racism, Harwell said, without “beating around the bush.”

“If a fairly conservative court in Tennessee can say that, maybe that’s a sign of hopefulness for our country that we’re moving in the right way,” Harwell said.

He credited Gilbert’s attorney, Evan Baddour, for approaching an old courthouse with fresh eyes.

“The truth is, dozens, if not hundreds, of other attorneys have been in that courthouse, have seen that jury room, and either it didn’t strike them as problematic, or they weren’t willing to take the stand that he was willing to take,” Harwell said.

Baddour declined to comment Sunday beyond praising the ruling, saying he did not want to interfere with his client’s ongoing case.

“Mr. Gilbert is just trying to get a fair trial,” he wrote in an email. “Anyone criminally accused is guaranteed at least that much.”

How the Giles County courthouse came to dedicate a room to the United Daughters of the Confederacy — a private group for descendants of Confederate soldiers — is not clear, the appeals court said. A framed letter in the jury room says the UDC Room dates to the 1930s.

“As members of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, we must continue to honor our Confederate Veterans, and share the history of the War Between the States,” wrote then-UDC President General Winifred D. Cope in a 2005 letter authorizing the replacement of a door panel. The note was framed in the courthouse.

The UDC says on its homepage that it denounces “any individual or group that promotes racial divisiveness or white supremacy.” The group did not immediately respond to a request for comment Sunday.

Those who have pushed to remove Confederate symbols from places of prominence say they cannot be separated from the secessionist movement’s racism.

Reviewing Gilbert’s case, the Tennessee appeals court said Confederate states “identified the right to hold black people in chattel slavery as central to the Southern way of life” and therefore a key justification for their secession from the Union.

Reminders of such racism are especially troubling in a courthouse where juries should mete out even justice and be perceived as fair, Witt wrote. He also said “evidence of the defendant’s guilt was legally sufficient but far from overwhelming,” bolstering the case for a new trial.

The Tennessee attorney general’s office and the local prosecutor’s office did not respond to requests for comment Sunday. Officials had argued that Gilbert “waived the [Confederate symbols] issue by failing to raise it before the jury was sworn” and noted that Gilbert was acquitted in an unrelated case. Witt called the arguments unconvincing.

Gilbert was convicted of aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, resisting arrest and unlawful possession of a weapon after having been previously convicted of a felony, according to court documents. The charges stemmed from a Christmas Eve gathering in 2018.

Gilbert’s daughter told police that the defendant shot at her mother, according to court documents, though she insisted at trial that she never saw her father with a gun and “assumed” he fired shots. Her mother testified that the defendant pushed and choked her, eventually relenting, and that she later heard a “pow, pow, pow” sound as she drove away.

Gilbert testified that he did not have a gun or fire it that Christmas Eve, court documents state. He told the jury that he argued with the woman, who he said hit and pushed him. Then he “grabbed her and pushed her out the door,” he said. He also said she tried to run him over.

It is not clear whether the Giles County courthouse has made changes to the jury room, or whether there are plans to do so now that it could undermine verdicts. A court clerk did not immediately respond to an inquiry Sunday evening.

Harwell said he expects it will be harder for other Giles County defendants to overturn their convictions based on the Confederate memorabilia. “Tennessee has pretty aggressive waiver rules,” he said, meaning that if “someone doesn’t raise something as soon as they have the opportunity to do so, it becomes very difficult for them to win on that issue in the future.”

“I would assume people will try,” he said. “And they certainly should, because the harm is just as serious to them, whether it happened five years ago or it happened yesterday.”

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