2:17pm PT by Jeremy Barr
Harvey Weinstein's Lawyers Ask (Again) for Trial to Be Moved Away From New York City
Having been turned down once already, Harvey Weinstein's legal team is asking the New York Supreme Court appellate division again for a change of venue in their client's criminal trial on charges of sexual assault and rape.
In a motion to be filed Thursday, when the more formal jury selection process is slated to begin, Weinstein lawyer Arthur Aidala pleaded for the trial to be moved out of Manhattan, citing "a perfect storm of prejudice to the defendant."
The attorney said the New York County Supreme Court building in lower Manhattan has "devolved into a carnival-like atmosphere that no prospective juror can avoid. Reporters and camera crews fill the entrance to the courthouse and line the hallways leading into the courtroom, celebrity press conferences denouncing the defendant occur on the courthouse steps, and protests and demonstrations are audible inside the courtroom during proceedings."
So far, the judge has seen several panels of 120 (or so) prospective jurors who have come before him to convey whether or not they think they could try Weinstein fairly. Many of those jurors have said they could not and have been dismissed.
"An alarmingly high percentage of prospective jurors in New York County have already shown an unwillingness to give fair and impartial consideration to the case," Aidala argued. "This is evident in the express admissions of jurors thus far during the proceedings, as well as clear biases that jurors have withheld from the court but disclosed on social media."
The lawyer asked the appellate division to "step in at this point and halt the media frenzy that has plagued the courthouse."
As Burke has told the prospective jurors, having heard of Weinstein is not enough to bar a prospective juror, but having a bias against him that would not allow him a fair shake is.
Aidala said that 130 of the 142 prospective jurors who have filed out juror questionnaires reported having previously heard of the Weinstein case.
"There have also been a high number of responses from prospective jurors that were victims of or had exposure to sexual assault or domestic violence," he wrote.
Back in October, an appellate court in Manhattan denied Weinstein's request for a change of venue.
Burke has previously denied a motion filed by Weinstein's side to delay the trial with a "cooling off period" after more charges were filed in Los Angeles against him. The judge also refused a request to recuse himself from the trial.
Opening statements are scheduled to begin Jan. 22.
The latest motion also cites the presence of Gigi Hadid, who is still in consideration to serve on the trial, as a contributing factor to the "carnival-like atmosphere." Added Aidala, "Ms. Hadid attracts her own press and her presence also increases the number of spectators and protestors outside of the courthouse."