MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) - Michael Smith of Minneapolis has been behind bars for more than five years, sentenced for a crime he says he didn't commit. Now, it's possible he will get a second chance at justice after two members of the jury that convicted him came forward claiming racist comments influenced their decision.
Smith had previously been convicted of third-degree murder and spent more than 10 years in prison for the crime, acknowledging afterword that though he's made mistakes in the past, that doesn't mean he's guilty of new crimes.
Just a few months after being released, he was charged again with being an armed criminal in possession of a firearm, despite no concrete evidence tying Smith to the gun in question. Ultimately, his attorney argued the case came down to credibility--whether to believe the officers or testimony from Smith and another north side resident.
“It was a racist trial the first trial because I could see it in the jury’s eyes—they was racist," Smith's girlfriend Nickole O'Neill said. “How can you send someone to jail based off the color of their skin?”
Two jurors are now admitting publicly that this was the case, with the foreman saying that one juror told the group, “Look, he is a black person with a previous criminal record living in North Minneapolis. You know he’s just a banger from the hood, so he’s got to be guilty."
It's enough to get a new hearing early next year and a possible new trial, which gives those close to Smith hope that even after more than half a decade, justice will be served.