Implications of Smollett case

Kassidy Crown


During winter quarter, I published an article looking into the case and claims of Jussie Smollett, a former actor on Fox’s “Empire.” With more evidence and the case’s increasing complexity, however, I feel it is necessary to comment on the case once more.

With the sudden announcement that all charges against Smollett have been dropped, even more questions have been raised about what happened behind the scenes.

According to both a CNN article and a Chicago Tribune article, not much is known for certain about what happened to broker the deal that dropped the charges. What is known is that the two men who attacked Smollett have indicated that they were the ones to attack him, and that it was a staged attack.

Last week, during an unscheduled court meeting, Smollett agreed to forfeit his $10,000 bond and do community service (of which he has only done two days and even that is drawing controversy, according to the Chicago Tribune article).

Questions have been raised about the precedent of such a decision, with both sides claiming different things.

On one hand, claims are being made that dropping the charges against Smollett are a routine way of dealing with nonviolent, first-time offenders. On the other hand, questions are being raised about how the case was sealed by the judge, and how both the Chicago police and mayor of Chicago seem baffled by the sudden about-face concerning the trial.

The handling of this investigation has been messy from top to bottom, and it is increasingly unclear what happened and who is at fault.

The messiness of this investigation warns victims of future hate crime that the public may not be on their side. As the old saying goes, all it takes is one person to sour public opinion. And now, with the uncertainty of the Smollett case, doubt is cast on the validity of hate crime cases, even if they are legitimate.

Victims of hate crime have historically found divisive public support along racial lines.

For instance, during OJ Simpson’s verdict, many black Americans celebrated his not guilty verdict, while many white Americans were outraged. Victims of hate crimes already have a hard time earning the trust of the public, so having a case that calls what trust victims can garner into question due to the deceit and the unclear motives for dropping charges does not help anyone.

Smollett’s actions, along with the secretive way in which the charges have been dropped, raises further doubts towards a legal system that has historically initiated rulings based in systemic racism, and should lead many in the public to wonder what exactly happened last week behind closed doors.

As aforementioned, this disconnect between the public’s view of justice and what the legal system rules as justice does little to help bolster trust in the legal system.

While the public’s job is not to discern who is guilty and who is innocent, they can act as a moderator and should voice their opinion when cases are convoluted and put to rest without a clear explanation.

This should especially be the case for Smollett’s trial, where even authorities are baffled by the decision. Further investigation is needed in this case, along with unsealing the court case.

Furthermore, exactly what happened to lead to the charges being dropped should be revealed and an explanation of why the charges were dropped is needed.
Until the uncertainties surrounding this case are resolved, Smollett should not be considered either exonerated or a victim.

Even though prosecutors dropped the charges, no explanation was given why, and a separate investigation should be ran to at least clear up the inconsistencies of this case.

The public demands and deserves clarity on this case, as it has the potential to impact our society’s attitude toward hate crime, with unknown consequences.