Defense Lawyers to Experts: Who's Who in the Harvey Weinstein Trial

4:00 AM 1/6/2020

by Ashley Cullins

Meet the judge, attorneys and experts who will determine the outcome (and likely the headlines) in the high-profile criminal proceeding.

Harvey Weinstein leaves New York City Criminal Court after a bail hearing on December 6, 2019 - getty-h 2019
Scott Heins/Getty Images
  • Donna Rotunno

    Rotunno, a former Cook County (Illinois) prosecutor in Chicago who now is at the Law Offices of Rotunno & Giralamo, has represented more than 40 defendants accused of sexual misconduct in the past decade and a half, making her one of the busiest attorneys of her kind. Rotunno, who attended Chicago-Kent College of Law, has made headlines for criticizing the #MeToo movement?for convicting men in the court of public opinion instead of assuming innocence until proven guilty. She told Chicago magazine that she?can "get away with a lot more" while cross-examining women than a male colleague could. "[If] he goes at that woman with the same venom that I do, he looks like a bully," Rotunno said. "If I do it, nobody even bats an?eyelash."

  • Damon Cheronis

    Cheronis, a sole practitioner in Chicago, advises clients on charges from drug possession to first-degree murder. In 2015, the Chicago-Kent College of Law grad helped free a man who spent nearly 30 years in jail after being wrongfully convicted of the 1984 sexual assault and murder of a teenage girl, and earlier in his career he defended Anthony "Twan" Doyle in the 2007 mob crackdown referred to as the "Family Secrets" trial. 

  • Arthur Aidala

    Aidala has defended Roger Ailes, NFL linebacker Lawrence Taylor and disgraced congressman Anthony Weiner against sexual misconduct claims. Nearly two decades ago, he secured a mistrial for onetime New York Post owner Abe Hirschfeld in a murder-for-hire case. Before entering private practice in 1997, the City University of New York law grad worked in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office. Now, Aidala is also representing former O.J. Simpson lawyer Alan Dershowitz in a defamation suit against Virginia Giuffre, who has accused Dershowitz of rape in connection with Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking operation.

  • Deborah Davis and Elizabeth Loftus

    Weinstein’s experts on memory — who co-authored a paper for The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology titled "Remembering Disputed Sexual Encounters: A New Frontier for Witness Memory Research" — will be allowed to testify but won’t be permitted to speak?on issues of memory specifically tied to sexual interactions and "the phenomenon known as 'voluntary unwanted sex.'" They defined it in court papers as "sex that is undesired, but that the person chooses to engage in" and argued it’s likely to lead to confusion over consent. Their testimony will be limited to general functions of memory. Davis, a psychology professor at University of Nevada, Reno, has served as a jury consultant for 20 years, and her expertise includes memory, interrogation and issues of consent. UC Irvine professor Loftus testified in Bill Cosby’s first trial — on the comedian’s side — and in trials for Martha Stewart, O.J. Simpson and Ted Bundy. 

  • Barbara Ziv

    Ziv is the prosecution’s expert on sexual assault and rape trauma syndrome. The Temple University professor spent more than an hour on the stand in the first major case of the #MeToo Era — Bill Cosby’s retrial. She told the jury that most common understanding of sexual assault is wrong and that it’s normal for stories to evolve over time as victims recall details they had tried to suppress. In the Weinstein trial, Ziv is expected to testify about why victims delay reporting a sexual assault and which factors determine how a victim interacts with his or her attacker afterward. “Individuals would rather believe that there is an explanation that they can live with that justifies the act rather than throwing out the entire relationship,” she told the Cosby jury. As a member of the Pennsylvania Sexual Offender Assessment Board, Ziv has evaluated more than 1,000 convicted sex offenders, and she has testified in nearly 200 trials. 

  • Judge and Jury

    Judge James M. Burke is one of 27 judges in the criminal division of the New York County Supreme Court that sees about 35 felony cases go to trial each month. Burke, a Georgetown Law grad, was first appointed to the bench by New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in 2001. Before that, he spent more than a decade as a prosecutor in the New York County District Attorney’s Office. Burke will preside over the selection of 12 jurors, and a court spokesman says that there will be six alternates instead of the usual two to four because high-profile cases are more likely to see jurors be disqualified. To find those 18 people, the court sent out 2,000 extra summonses to wrangle a pool of about 520 people from which to choose. (Only about 27?percent of those summoned for jury duty in New York County actually show up.) Jury selection is expected to take two weeks. 

    This story appears in the Jan. 8 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.