NEW YORK — The Harvey Weinstein sex-crimes trial resumed Tuesday with a new skirmish between defense lawyers and prosecutors over Weinstein’s legal team’s effort to take jury screening behind closed doors.
Prosecutors produced a letter to Judge James Burke from a lawyer representing major media outlets arguing against Weinstein’s earlier motion seeking “individualized and sequestered voir dire,” a step which would effectively seal jury selection from public view, according to the document obtained by USA TODAY.
Weinstein’s motion should be denied, prosecutor Joan Illuzzi argued in her own letter, saying Weinstein’s lawyers failed to cite relevant court precedents to support their motion to close jury screening to the public and the media.
The lawyer representing the media, Katherine Bolger, also argued there no legal basis for closing the courtroom.
“For one thing, Mr. Weinstein cannot seriously claim that publicity threatens his right to a fair trial,” her letter said. “In fact, his counsel Donna Rotunno said in a CNN interview on June 3 that she thought publicity about the case would be helpful to Mr. Weinstein.
“Indeed, both Weinstein and his legal team have sought to make their case through the media” in interviews in the months leading up to the trial.
Weinstein, wearing a black suit, shook his head while talking in court to a defense lawyer, Damon Cheronis. He raised his hands as he talked and looked animated.
The courtroom became a runway as the trial entered its second week: On Monday, model Gigi Hadid was called as a potential juror in the trial of the embattled film producer, who is accused of five sex crimes in New York involving encounters with two women.
Despite having met Weinstein and actress Salma Hayek, one of Weinstein’s high-profile accusers, Hadid told the judge that she is still able to keep “an open mind on the facts,” if she is indeed selected as a juror in the trial, which is expected to last until at least mid-March.
Hadid, who has more than 51 million Instagram followers, was mobbed by photographers as she left the courthouse later. “I’m not allowed to talk about jury duty,” she said. “I’m sorry.”
The 24-year-old is one of hundreds of people who have been summoned to a Manhattan courthouse since last week as part of the screening process of prospective jurors.
Jury pre-selection – which involves answering verbal and written questions about whether one can remain unbiased – is expected to last until later this week.
On Monday, Burke said the jury screening process has been efficient and is “working well.” He added that he wishes to see jury selection begin Thursday. Opening statements are targeted for Jan. 22.
Weinstein, 67, is charged with raping a woman in a Manhattan hotel room in 2013 and sexually assaulting another in 2006.
He has pleaded not guilty to the charges and denies all allegations of non-consensual sex. He has been free on bail since he was first charged in May 2018.
Harvey Weinstein trial:Gigi Hadid called as potential juror, says she’ll keep ‘open mind’
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