Deliberations begin Tuesday in the rape trial of disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, but this is hardly the beginning of the end. If New York jurors acquit him, he still has to face prosecution out in Los Angeles County. If he’s convicted, then expect an appeal.
“We think there are several aspects that are opening this judge up to an appeal if necessary,” Weinstein publicist Juda Engelmayer told Law&Crime Network host Jesse Weber in an interview Monday.
The defendant stands trial for allegedly raping former actress Jessica Mann in 2013, and sexually assaulting former production assistant Mimi Haleyi in 2006. The defense, which made its closing argument first, said that these encounters were consensual, that the women used Weinstein to get ahead professionally, and that they only turned against him after other abuse allegations surfaced in October 2017. The prosecution painted the defendant as a manipulator, who took advantage of women in vulnerable positions. He was well aware that what he was doing was wrong, with evidence showing that he worried in 2013 that another alleged victim, actress Annabella Sciorra, might step forward, according to the state.
Appeals are quite routine in criminal court, though it’s always striking when it’s from a high-profile defendant with money to fuel the process. That element was ever-present from the beginning of jury selection in the rape trial. Weinstein’s defense has made it a point to single out alleged wrongdoing from Judge James Burke. That included the judge excoriating the defendant for using a cell phone in court.
“Mr. Weinstein, I could not implore you more to not answer the following question: Is this really the way you want to end up in jail for the rest of your life, by texting in violation of an order?” Burke said. The defense demanded that he recuse himself. He didn’t.
Weinstein’s attorneys have also requested that the trial be postponed after the Los Angeles charges were announced, and that the jurors be sequestered. The judge denied this.
“The defense is doing an effective job of preserving appellate issues in this case,” Law&Crime Network analyst Julie Rendelman, a criminal defense lawyer who is unaffiliated with the case, told Law&Crime during jury selection.
Englemayer continued the Weinstein team’s criticism of the judge on Monday.
“There’s been so much bias, and the judge has patently ignored it,” he said. The publicist argued that Burke was “as difficult as possible on this case.”
“He has allowed the prosecution to run roughshod over some of the laws,” Engelmayer asserted. The publicist attacked the judge, arguing Burke: improperly refused to toss a witness’s testimony or let the defense follow up on evidence that impeached this person; exposed the court to outside protests; let a woman serve on the jury even though she was writing a book about “predatory” men and young girls.
[Image via Stephanie Keith/Getty Images]
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