Jury selection process continues in Weinstein’s rape trial
New York – Harvey Weinstein returned to a New York courthouse Wednesday for the second day of what is expected to be a lengthy jury selection process in his rape trial.
The day’s court action was expected to be a partial repeat from Tuesday, when the first prospective jurors were given questionnaires asking, among other things, if they could ignore media coverage and decide the case based only on evidence heard in court.
While waiting for the next group of potential jurors to assemble, Judge James Burke denied a request by Weinstein’s lawyers to ban Gloria Allred – a prominent lawyer who represents some of the Weinstein accusers – from the courtroom because the defense is considering calling her as a witness.
The judge said there was too much uncertainty over whether Allred would take the stand to prevent her from observing testimony. Allred wasn’t in the courtroom when the ruling was made. Among her clients are Mimi Haleyi, the alleged sexual assault victim in the New York City case, and Annabella Sciorra, a key prosecution witness.
Weinstein is charged in New York with raping a woman in a hotel room in 2013 and sexually assaulting another woman in 2006. He could get life in prison if convicted. In a newly announced Los Angeles case, which will be tried later, he is accused of raping one woman and sexually assaulting a second on back-to-back nights in 2013.
The 67-year-old former studio boss behind such Oscar winners as “Pulp Fiction” and “Shakespeare in Love” has said any sexual activity was consensual.
Weinstein’s lawyers unsuccessfully tried to delay jury selection Tuesday in light of the Los Angeles case, asking for a “cooling-off period” to allow the publicity to subside. Judge James Burke expressed confidence that the jurors would know that Weinstein is presumed innocent until proven guilty, and he pressed on.
Jury selection got off to a rough start, with the judge threatening to jail Weinstein for violating court rules by texting in the courtroom.
“Is this really the way you want to end up in jail … by texting and violating a court order?” Burke asked, cutting off Weinstein off before he could respond.
During Tuesday’s court session, potential jurors were introduced as a group to Weinstein and were read a list of names that could come up at trial, including actresses Salma Hayek, Charlize Theron and Rosie Perez.
By the end of the day, just 36 potential jurors out of an initial 120 remained. New pools of prospective jurors will be summoned to court each morning in the coming days. A second round of jury selection will take place next week, when potential jurors who survived a first round of cuts come back to be questioned further.
Jurors were also told the trial will last about six weeks, once testimony begins.