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On the 27th day of Harvey Weinstein’s New York criminal trial, his top attorney used her closing argument to implore the jury to “use [their] New York City common sense,” “throw that gut feeling out the window” and decide her client’s fate based on the hard evidence in the case.
“The district attorney has failed to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt,” Donna Rotunno told the 12 men and women of the jury on Thursday morning. “On behalf of Mr. Weinstein, we are imploring you to have the courage to tell them that by saying ‘not guilty.'”
Rotunno said that Weinstein is “not the monster” that he’s been painted as by witnesses and the prosecution. “Every single one of these women reaches out and asks for things and he does anything he can,” she added.
The lawyer acknowledged that the jurors might initially have been predisposed to find the former movie mogul guilty. “In a court room setting, you have to throw that gut feeling right out the window because you have to evaluate the evidence,” said Rotunno. “Use your New York City common sense. Every time you feel like emotion is taking over, remember that common sense when evaluating this evidence because it will guide you to the right answer.”
She spoke specifically about each of the six women who have testified under oath that Weinstein sexually assaulted them, reminding them that only two women — Miriam Haley and Jessica Mann — are part of the indictment against him. Three of the women — Dawn Dunning, Lauren Young and Tarale Wulff — testified as “prior bad acts” witnesses, while Sopranos actress Annabella Sciorra testified on the charge of predatory sexual assault.
“In the end, it comes down to those two,” the lawyer said of Haley and Mann. “If you don’t believe Miriam Haley or Jessica Mann, you don’t have to evaluate anything else. You don’t get to Annabella Sciorra if you don’t believe Miriam Haley.”
Rotunno described Haley as a “flirtatious person” and said that Mann has been used by the prosecution. “You saw Jessica Mann,” she told the jurors. “She couldn’t keep the dates right. She broke down. I feel sorry for Jessica Mann. Jessica Mann is a victim of the state. The People of the State of New York used Jessica Mann.”
Both women, she argued, “used” Weinstein to benefit their careers. Of Mann, Rotunno said, “whether she’s attracted to him or whether she thinks he’s gross or smells or the horrible things she said in her testimony, she made a choice that she wants to be in his world. She made a choice that she wants the life he could potentially provide her.”
Rotunno said that Sciorra accused Weinstein of raping her in the winter of 1993 to regain her once-promising career. “She’s changed her memories and now she was raped,” she said. “Once again, she’s a star. She has new agents. Now, she’s the darling of the movement of the minute.”
Joan Illuzzi, the top prosecutor on the case, will present her closing argument on Friday. The jury is expected to begin deliberating on Weinstein’s fate on Tuesday.
“I’m sure it’ll be good,” Rotunno previewed. “She’s a good lawyer. I have a feeling it will be emotional and a tiny bit loud. She has the last word, and the last word is a powerful thing.”
Rotunno said the prosecution has “weaved a story” over the last few weeks to paint Weinstein in a false light. “The assistant district attorneys are the producers in this case, and they are writing the script,” she said. “In their universe, women are not responsible for the parties they attend, for the men they flirt with, for the jobs they ask for help with. … In this script, the powerful man is the villain and he’s so unattractive and large that no woman would want to sleep with him voluntarily.”
Rotunno said the prosecution is “stripping women of any ability to make their own decisions” and “stripping women of the choices they make and labeling it as something else.”
She also criticized the prosecution for showing the jury naked photographs of Weinstein, which were meant to corroborate physical descriptions of his body. “Ask yourself, why?” said the attorney. “To do nothing more than shame him. There’s no reason for those photographs. Not one.”
“You don’t have to like Mr. Weinstein,” Rotunno told the jury. “This is not a popularity contest. The unpopular person needs you most.”
As Weinstein’s lawyers have done throughout the trial, Rotunno referenced the extensive media attention the case has drawn. “You are the last line of defense in this country from the overzealous media, from the overzealous prosecutors,” she told the jury.
Asked on Thursday afternoon how he felt about Rotunno’s closing argument, Weinstein told reporters, “I loved it,” and likened it to “The Queen’s Speech,” a riff on the 2010 film The King’s Speech.
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