CHICAGO (CBS) – Jurors went through a second day of deliberations on Thursday in the trial of actor Jussie Smollett, accused of orchestrating a phony hate crime against himself nearly three years ago.
The jury of six men and six women deliberated for more than two hours on Wednesday, after hearing about five hours of closing arguments from prosecutors and defense attorneys. They returned to court Thursday morning to resume deliberations around 9:15 a.m.
Cook County Judge James Linn has instructed the jury to return six verdict forms – one for each disorderly conduct count Smollett faces. Each count covers different statements he made to police, which prosecutors say were false.
CBS 2 Legal Analyst Irv Miller said there is no way to know for sure why the jury is taking longer than expected.
"It's impossible to predict when a jury will come back with a verdict, and it's impossible to predict what that verdict is going to be," Miller said. "It takes 12 to convict and only one to rock the boat and say, 'I'm not getting on board,' and that means there's going to be another trial in the future."
During their first day of deliberations, jurors asked Judge James Linn for a copy of a calendar prosecutors displayed during the trial, outlining dates of various events that led up to the attack, as part of what two brothers testified was a "dry run" for the fake attack Smollett paid them to orchestrate.
Smollett, who once starred on the hit show "Empire," faces six counts of disorderly conduct, accused of orchestrating a fake attack against himself nearly three years ago, and then lying to police about it, in a bid for publicity.
Smollett, who is Black and gay, had told police he was attacked as he was walking home in Streeterville around 2 a.m. on Jan. 29, 2019. He claimed two masked men – one of them also wearing a red hat – shouted racist and homophobic slurs as they beat him, put a noose around his neck, and poured a chemical on him. Police and prosecutors have said Smollett orchestrated it himself, paying the Osundairo brothers $3,500 to help stage the attack, because he was unhappy with "Empire" producers' response to hate mail he had received.
CBS 2 was the first to report that the Osundairo brothers bought that rope from the Crafty Beaver, a hardware store near their Lakeview home.
The jury began deliberating mid-afternoon on Wednesday, after both sides presented their closing arguments in the case, with prosecutors telling jurors they presented a clear-cut case that the former "Empire" actor orchestrated a fake hate crime against himself as a publicity stunt, and the defense calling the prosecution's case a "house of cards."
"We have proven this by overwhelming evidence," special prosecutor Dan Webb told the jury during the prosecution's closing argument on Wednesday.
Webb said it was "just plain wrong" for a Black gay man like Smollett to stage a phony hate crime, using symbols of racism like a noose and use of the N-word.
"To outright denigrate something as serious, as heinous, as a real hate crime -- to denigrate it and then make sure it involved words and symbols that have such horrible historical significance in the our country," Webb said.
But Smollett's defense attorney asserted the prosecution's case is based on the testimony of liars, calling the Osundairo brothers "the worst type of criminals."
"The entire prosecution case including the foundation of their case is built like a house of cards, and we all know what happens to a house of cards when you apply a little pressure: it crumbles," defense attorney Nenye Uche said.
Uche said the Osundairo brothers accusing Smollett of staging a hoax was simply a "blame the victim scam."
"It's better than the Nigerian prince scam," Uche said. "Don't fall for it."
Smollett's defense team rested their case on Tuesday, after the actor took the stand in his own defense, repeatedly denying he staged a fake attack against himself. Smollett also claimed the Osundairo brothers -- the key prosecution witnesses in the case -- asked him for $2 million to "go away" and say there were not involved in any hoax.
However, Smollett said he never paid them any money. Earlier at trial, Abel Osundairo denied asking Smollett for $1 million each for him and his brother not to testify against Smollett.
If convicted, Smollett would face up to three years in prison, although legal experts have said it's more likely he'll face probation.
Judge Linn has not set any time for when he plans on calling it a night for the jury Thursday. He is known for allowing juries to deliberate late into the night.
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