Lawyers in Weinstein rape case begin questioning potential jurors

NEW YORK (Reuters) – More than 100 potential jurors in the rape trial of Harvey Weinstein reported to Manhattan criminal court on Thursday as lawyers strive to choose 12 impartial New Yorkers to decide the former film mogul’s fate.

Film producer Harvey Weinstein arrives at New York Criminal Court for his sexual assault trial in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., January 16, 2020. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The potential jurors, who have passed an initial round of pre-screening, included supermodel Gigi Hadid, who said she had met Weinstein before but could nonetheless be fair. Hadid was excused from service early in the day.

More than 60 other potential jurors were excused based on answers they had given on written questionnaires.

On Thursday, one man in the jury pool was given a summons to appear in court on March 10 to face possible contempt for posting about the case on social media. Justice James Burke told the man that he could face a fine or up to 30 days in jail.

Weinstein, 67, has pleaded not guilty to charges of assaulting two women, and faces life in prison if convicted on the most serious charge, predatory sexual assault.

Since 2017, more than 80 women, including many famous actresses, have accused him of sexual misconduct dating back decades. Weinstein has denied the allegations, saying any sexual encounters he had were consensual.

The allegations helped fuel the #MeToo movement, in which women have gone public with misconduct allegations against powerful men in business, entertainment and politics.

Weinstein’s trial began on Jan. 6 and is expected to last up to months.

The jurors who showed up on Thursday had already passed a round of pre-screening over the last week, saying they could be impartial and were able to sit on the jury.

Legal experts have said selecting impartial jurors in a case that has attracted a great deal of publicity could be difficult.

Both sides will likely question potential jurors about their knowledge and opinion of the case, their work history and whether they have been victims of sexual misconduct, experts said.

Weinstein, once one of Hollywood’s most powerful producers, made his mark with critically acclaimed films such as “The English Patient” and “Shakespeare in Love.”

On Jan. 6, as the New York trial began, Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced new sexual assault charges against Weinstein.

On Wednesday, Weinstein filed a last-minute motion with a New York appellate court to have his trial delayed and moved out of Manhattan, arguing that the “carnival-like atmosphere” surrounding the case made it impossible for him to get a fair trial. The court has not ruled.

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