Jury Begins Deliberating in Harvey Weinstein's Criminal Trial

Film producer Harvey Weinstein arrives at the courtroom for his sexual assault trial at Manhattan criminal court on February 3, 2020 - Getty - H 2020
Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

On Tuesday morning, the 29th day of Harvey Weinstein's New York criminal trial, the 12 men and women of the jury formally began deliberations to decide his fate.

Prior to the beginning of the deliberation process, Weinstein's defense team motioned for one juror, a white female, to be removed from the case and replaced with an alternate juror because she read a book about child abuse. (The juror is an author who is currently working on a book.)

"The people strenuously object," lead prosecutor Joan Illuzzi said in response. "She has done nothing wrong. We never instructed this jury that they not be allowed to read books."

After the juror was brought before the court, Judge James Burke denied the defense's motion and ruled that she remain on the panel.

He then brought in the jury and gave his instructions for deliberating on the case. "You and you alone are the judges of the fact and you and you alone are responsible for deciding whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty," the judge told the jurors. "You should apply the same common sense in the jury room that you are called on to provide throughout the rest of your lives."

Burke encouraged them to "discuss the evidence, consult with one another" and "reason together respectfully."

"Each of you must decide the case yourself," he said. "You should not surrender an honest view of the evidence simply because you want the trial to end or are outvoted."

The judge reminded the panel that the burden of proof — beyond a reasonable doubt — is on the prosecution, not the defense. "If the people satisfy their burden of proof, you must find the defendant guilty," he said.

Burke also clarified for the jury how they may consider the testimony of the three "prior bad acts" witnesses, Dawn Dunning, Lauren Young and Tarale Wulff.

Their testimony, he said, can only be considered on the issue of "forcible compulsion and lack of consent," but not to prove that Weinstein has a "propensity" to commit such crimes.

Weinstein, 67, faces five criminal charges: two counts of predatory sexual assault, two counts of rape (in the first and third degrees) and one count of criminal sexual assault. If convicted of predatory sexual assault, Weinstein could be sentenced to life in jail.

Burke told the jury that they cannot find Weinstein guilty of both predatory sexual assault and criminal sexual assault in the first degree. If they find the defendant guilty of predatory sexual assault, they should not consider the criminal sexual assault charge, he said. 

"It is fundamental that a jury consider a greater before a lesser," the judge said before the deliberation process began.

The predatory sexual assault charges stem from the allegations of Miriam Haley and Jessica Mann, each paired with the testimony of Sopranos actress Annabella Sciorra.

The jurors exited the court room to begin deliberations at 11:30 a.m.

The trial began on Jan. 6. Jurors heard closing arguments from the defense on Thursday and from the prosecution on Friday, after weeks of witness testimony.

There is little precedent for Weinstein's case, but a Pennsylvania jury spent about 14 hours over two days deliberating in comedian Bill Cosby's April 2018 sexual assault trial. The jury in Cosby's previous trial, in the summer of 2017, was unable to reach a verdict after six days of deliberation.

Over the last few weeks, Weinstein has appeared to grow more visually confident in his chances of acquittal. He laughed while leaving court on Friday afternoon, after the prosecution's closing argument, and announced himself pleased with lawyer Donna Rotunno's closing presentation on Thursday afternoon.

"I loved it," Weinstein said of Rotunno's argument. "I made The King's Speech. It was the queen's speech.'"

Tuesday morning's session began with the prosecution lambasting Rotunno for writing a Newsweek op-ed directed at the juror panel, which assistant district attorney Illuzzi said was "completely, 100 percent inappropriate behavior." She added, "It borders on tampering with the jury."

The judge denied the prosecution's request to remand Weinstein into custody, but ordered the defense to cease giving interviews while the trial is in session. "I would caution you about the tentacles of your public relations juggernaut," Burke told Weinstein's team.

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."]