Harvey Weinstein entering court this morning. The judge is going over jury instructions with the attorneys now in court. Then, he’ll read them to the jury and they’ll begin their deliberations @LawCrimeNetwork pic.twitter.com/vwbDnNU0Ur
— Jennifer Tintner (@JenniferTintner) February 18, 2020
It’s a given that a defense team will butt heads with the state in a criminal case. The Harvey Weinstein trial isn’t any different. While jurors weren’t present in the courtroom, prosecutor Joan Illuzzi-Orbon called out attorney Donna Rotunno for writing an op-ed calling for the jury to acquit the defendant.
The state maintained that this article was directed at the panel that will decide Weinstein’s guilt or innocence. Illuzzi-Orbon argued that the op-ed bordered on jury tampering, was a direct violation of Judge James Burke‘s order, and was “certainly” a violation of American Bar Association rules. She suggested that Weinstein either spearheaded or sanctioned the piece, so he should be remanded into custody.
Weinstein co-counsel Damon Cheronis denied that the article was directed at specific jurors and noted that jurors were told to not to read media. Rotunno said that this op-ed was about the criminal justice system as a whole. The article features the same theme as her closing argument on Thursday, Rotunno said.
Burke ordered her not to speak to the press until the verdict comes out. Tuesday is the first day of deliberations.
Prosecutors allege that Weinstein raped former actress Jessica Mann, and sexually assaulted former production assistant Mimi Haleyi. Illuzzi-Orbon described him as a manipulator who leveraged his considerable professional power over his victims.
As for the Rotunno op-ed? The defense attorney implored the members of the jury to do the “right” thing, which in her view is acquittal.
“I implore the members of this jury to do what they know is right and was expected of them from the moment they were called upon to serve their civic duty in a court of law,” Rotunno said in a op-ed published Sunday in Newsweek. In the article, she argued that Weinstein was already convicted in the press, and she voiced concern that jurors would still be exposed to outside takes on the matter.
“Judges instruct jurors to avoid all media coverage and outside influences in making their decision. But in a high-profile case like Harvey Weinstein’s, does anyone think that’s realistically possible?” she said. “The mocking of Mr. Weinstein’s walker, the unflattering courtroom-artist sketches of his body, the countless critical op-eds and biased stories, and the convenient timing of the politically-motivated charges in Los Angeles were all designed to pre-determine his guilt.”
Jesse Weber contributed to this report.
[Image via Stephanie Keith/Getty Images]