Weinstein, 69, was found guilty early last year and was sentenced to 23 years in prison for sexually assaulting two women several years before his arrest. Those and other alleged victims contacted law enforcement after news organizations published investigations of Weinstein’s alleged misconduct over decades, prompting the start of the #MeToo movement.
His sentencing, which occurred days before the pandemic forced New York to shutter, was attended by the women who testified against him, including “Sopranos” and “Hand That Rocks the Cradle” actress Annabella Sciorra.
Weinstein was found guilty of forcing a sex act on former production assistant Mimi Haleyi in 2006 and raping aspiring actress Jessica Mann at a DoubleTree hotel in Manhattan in 2013. He was acquitted on a higher-level rape count in connection to Mann and was also found not guilty on the top counts of predatory sexual assault, which covered alleged patterns of crimes involving Haleyi, Mann and Sciorra, who alleged that Weinstein raped her in the 1990s.
Gloria Allred, who represents Haleyi, said the appellate court should deny Weinstein’s bid for a new trial. She alleged Weinstein’s lawyers are improperly asking the appeals court to do the jury’s job.
“The jury has spoken, and I believe that this conviction should not be reversed,” Allred added.
Lawyers for Weinstein argued from the outset that his trial was unfair.
In the appeal brief, they accused the Los Angeles district attorney of tainting the New York trial by announcing a separate case against Weinstein the day before jury selection began in Manhattan. “This only increased the media firestorm, but the trial court refused to delay the trial,” the defense team wrote.
Another issue it raised was New York Supreme Court Justice James Burke’s denial of defense requests to vet potential jurors individually and in private, rather than in a group in open court, which Weinstein’s legal team argued was necessary because of the amount of publicity.
Defense lawyers confronted Juror No. 11 about her novel during the selection hearing.
She denied that her book related to the subject matter of the case, noting that the conduct in her story is “consensual.” When asked about a blurb on her book’s website describing “predatory older men,” the juror said she had not recalled the publisher using that description. Weinstein’s team had already used up all their opportunities to veto jurors, so they asked Burke to dismiss the novelist, which the judge declined to do.
“Juror No. 11’s fixation with matters of consent and predatory older men and her lack of candor about it, raises troubling questions about whether she prejudged Mr. Weinstein’s guilt and whether she had a personal agenda to see him convicted,” Weinstein attorneys Barry Kamins, John Leventhal and Diana Fabi Samson wrote in the appeal brief.
The juror’s participation in deliberations “did not merely obstruct the judicial process, it single-handedly obliterated it,” the lawyers added.
Juror No. 11 declined to comment about the claims by Weinstein’s legal team when reached by email Thursday. The Washington Post is not identifying her, because she was not named in the legal papers.
Burke, the judge, refused last year to ask the juror to produce a copy of the then-unpublished book for inspection and would not ask her to explain a comment she made in a magazine interview that the novel was “deeply personal.”
When she was asked in court why she did not disclose the nature of her book as it related to “predatory older men,” she gave what the lawyers said was an “implausible” explanation that she “had forgotten that she had previously described her book in that manner and was unaware of how her publisher had described it.”
While sitting on the jury and hearing evidence, the same juror, a Harvard graduate, “was reading and reviewing books on-line that centered on issues of consent and older predatory men,” the brief says.
In one post, she complimented an author’s skill at conveying the “repulsiveness” of a character’s “predator,” according to the court papers. The review referred to the teenage victim’s role in the story as one of being “entrapped” in the relationship.
Upon learning this, the judge could have excused the juror to replace her with one of several alternatives but declined to do so.
“Her willingness to deceive raised grave questions, not just about her qualifications as a juror, but whether she had an agenda, personal or pecuniary, to serve as a juror in this high-profile case,” the lawyers argued.
They suggested that a separate hearing exploring the juror’s potential issues could have revealed what they had no way of knowing during the trial — whether she had an incentive to convict Weinstein to help sell her book and, conversely, whether she feared that acquitting him “would have proved disastrous to her marketing campaign directed at the #MeToo movement.”
Lucian Chalfen, a spokesman for the Office of Court Administration who handles media inquiries directed at state court judges, said, “The defendant was convicted by a jury verdict after a lengthy trial and is well within his rights to avail himself of the appellate process.”
The Manhattan district attorney’s office prosecuted the high-profile case and will have to defend its conviction when the appeal is heard. “We will respond in our brief to the court,” spokesman Danny Frost said.
Weinstein’s team has also raised fairness issues related to Burke’s rulings on which witnesses could testify and what evidence was allowed before the jury.
Weinstein is deteriorating in prison and will probably die there if he remains for the duration of his sentence, the attorneys said. He has serious health conditions that are managed by 20 medications, his team says. The brief says that he is losing vision in his left eye because of wet macular degeneration and a lack of treatment and that he needs surgery to address a cataract in his other eye.
“This appeal is a window into my innocence and I hope that the truth becomes more clear once people read it,” Weinstein said in a statement from the Wende Correctional Facility near Buffalo.