Appellate justices have not yet handed down a ruling on disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein’s New York sexual assault hearing, but they took prosecutors to task for what they considered to be prejudicial trial evidence about his other alleged behavior.
“You’re really arguing this was not overkill?” Justice Sallie Manzanet-Daniels asked Manhattan prosecutor Valerie Figueredo in a Wednesday hearing, challenging the state on their use of evidence about bad acts other than those Weinstein was on trial for, according to Variety.
Weinstein is currently set to serve 23 years in the New York State prison system for raping former actress Jessica Mann, and sexually assaulting former production assistant Mimi Haleyi.
The appellate division in New York Supreme Court questioned on Wednesday whether testimony about Weinstein’s bullying behavior simply served to make him look bad, as opposed to actually showing he was guilty as charged. Three out of the five justices expressed concerns, according to Variety.
“He doesn’t get convicted because he’s a bad guy,” said Justice Judith Gische. “He gets convicted for these particular crimes.”
Manzanet-Daniels was more blunt, calling such testimony “incredibly prejudicial,” according to USA Today.
“Let’s inflame the jury’s heart by telling them that he beat up his brother during a meeting,” she said. “I don’t see how there is a balance there on that.”
Julie Rendelman, a Law&Crime legal analyst and a criminal defense lawyer unaffiliated with the case, said that flaws in the New York trial were obvious. Nonetheless, it is still not a sure thing that the justices will overturn the conviction, even though they apparently signaled a willingness.
“Many in the legal field who followed the trial are not surprised that serious questions are now being raised as to the prejudicial nature of extrinsic evidence that was allowed in at Weinstein’s trial,” Rendelman told Law&Crime in an email. “With that said, while the questions raised at the hearing certainly give the impression that the Court is leaning towards an overturning of the conviction, it really is anyone’s guess whether Harvey Weinstein really is going to get a second bite at the apple in his New York case.”
Beginning with bombshell exposés from The New York Times and New Yorker, at least 100 women, including high-profile Hollywood actresses, said the producer engaged in misconduct up to and including rape. They said Weinstein used his considerable power and influence to terrorize and bully them.
The New York case is the only time claims were adjudicated in criminal court, though Weinstein faces ongoing rape charges in Los Angeles, to which he has pleaded not guilty. Attorneys in his Manhattan trial argued that he was a flawed man who cheated on his wife, and they maintained these were consensual encounters.
“We are hopeful that after hearing the right and legal arguments that clouded Mr. Weinstein’s New York trial, the appellate court will do what is legally just and support due process,” Weinstein spokesman Juda Englemayer told Law&Crime in an email.
[Image via Spencer Platt/Getty Images]
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