Jan. 10 (UPI) — Harvey Weinstein’s lawyers butted heads with a New York judge Friday over whether jury selection in the former producer’s sex-crimes trial should be kept secret.
Defense attorney Arthur Aidala filed a motion saying the process should take place behind closed doors because potential jurors were afraid to speak freely during questioning. He said some of the potential jurors were themselves sexual assault victims or had heard too much about the Weinstein case.
“To select a fair and impartial jury under unusual circumstances, voir dire should not be business as usual,” the motion read. “This is an unusual case, with an unusual amount of media attention, to which every juror has been exposed.”
Aidala addressed the motion in court Friday, the end of the first week of trial.
“Most people do not speak in front of international media,” he said. “In order for citizens to be as honest and forthright as possible, we ask that jury selection be done in private.”
Judge James Burke disagreed.
“That’s against the law. I’ll read this, but I’m generally familiar with this form of the law … I’m disagreeing with you on virtually every level,” he said.
Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi said there was no precedent for interviewing each potential juror in private.
The hearing came as a number of women dressed in black conducted a protest outside the New York City courthouse.
“It’s not my fault — not where I was, not how I dress,” they chanted. “The rapist is you:”
Weinstein pleaded not guilty in June 2018 to five counts of rape in the first and third degrees, and sexual assault in the first degree in a case involving two accusers. The charges stem from an incident in 2004 in which Lucia Evans said Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex. Another unnamed woman accused Weinstein of rape in 2013.
First-degree rape and criminal sex act are class B felonies, while third-degree rape is a class E felony. The most serious rape charge carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison.