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Juror: St. Paul man's 'got to be guilty' because he's a 'banger from the hood'

Michael Smith, 36, has been in federal prison five years already for a conviction the foreman says was tainted by racism.

Michael Smith, 36, has been in federal prison five years already for a conviction the foreman says was tainted by racism. Fox 9

Michael Smith's criminal record is fairly short. 

In 2001, he was convicted of third-degree murder, second-degree assault, and criminal operation of a vehicle while under the influence of a "controlled substance." Smith was sentenced to prison in Stillwater, where he was twice convicted of fourth-degree assault (once in 2005, once in 2006). 

This record was enough to get Smith labeled a "career criminal," a phrase used in announcing a 2012 federal indictment against him. Smith, then 31, had been arrested in April of that year, not long after his release from prison, and was accused of possessing a sawed-off shotgun. 

Felons are barred from posessing firearms, anyway, but Smith's assault convictions from his prison stint meant he was subject to the "Armed Career Criminal Act," which comes with a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years without parole. In 2013, Smith was found guilty, and sentenced to 180 months, or exactly that 15-year minimum, in federal prison.

The repeat use of the term "career criminal" seems to have sunk in with at least one juror -- not that he or she needed much convincing Smith was a menace, as reported by Fox 9

According to the jury foreman, the juror said, of Smith: "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."

(Note: Smith actually lived in St. Paul, according to the indictment, but was accused of possessing the shotgun while in north Minneapolis -- not that this juror is big on nuance.) 

The foreman in Smith's case testified about that juror's statement on Monday, after coming forward to help Smith get a retrial; Fox reports that the foreman has felt "guilty" about Smith's conviction since the case closed. 

One juror said they changed their vote after the fellow juror's "banger from the hood" comment, explaining that it convinced them "because of his race, Smith was probably involved in gangs." 

Smith's DNA and fingerprints were not connected to the shotgun, and prosecutors' evidence consisted of police testimony, which jurors believed over testimony from Smith and another defense witness. Monday's hearing will be followed by another -- scheduled for 2018 -- to determine if that juror's prejudice warrants Smith receiving a retrial.

Watch Fox 9's report below.