12:41pm PT by Jeremy Barr
Weinstein Trial Reporter's Notebook: 33 Days of Waiting, Watching and Shivering
The first false alarm, which was literally an alarm bell, came around 12:45 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 21.
The 60 or so reporters seated in the Part 99 courtroom on the 15th floor of the New York County Supreme Court building sat up in their seats and came to attention, ready to hear that the jury's latest message to the judge — signaled with a loud buzzer — was the notification that they had reached a verdict on Harvey Weinstein.
My first sign that the jury message was not a verdict was when Weinstein attorney Damon Cheronis told a fellow lawyer what the contents of the message were and she literally laughed out loud.
Judge James Burke confirmed that the message was not The One: "We, the jury, request a 10-minute break outside now, please.” The judge said they could have taken a break without formally notifying him, but that was another matter. (Later on Friday afternoon, a substantive jury note came in, asking the judge if they could be hung on two counts but unanimous on the other three.)
So, at 11:28 a.m. on Monday, when the buzzer rung again, after two hours of jury deliberation — the jury was up to 22 hours total at this point — the reporters in the room didn't know what to make of it.
After a few agonizing minutes, Judge Burke then said the magic words we had been waiting 33 days of court proceedings to hear: "We, the jury, have reached a verdict."
Ten minutes later, the jury of seven men and five women entered the room and took their seats. Within three minutes, we had our verdict, read by foreman Bernard Cody. Reporters strained to get a glimpse of Weinstein's reaction, but he was mostly blocked, though I could see clearly that he seemed to freeze in place when he was asked to stand up and be taken into custody.
The next six hours were a blur of dueling press conferences, spontaneous accuser speeches and reporter gaggles that unfolded all around the perimeter of the 100 Centre Street court building.
As we exited the courtroom, which had been physically blocked by a group of court officers as the verdict was read and the proceedings wrapped up, reporters ran in every which direction.
There was a press conference given by the Manhattan District Attorney's office inside the building. Outside, a podium waited for stakeholders to make any post-conviction comments they wanted to make.
Attorneys Douglas Wigdor and Debra Katz, who represented some of the six women who testified that Weinstein sexually assaulted them, went first.
In a moment that was remarkably pitch-perfect in symbolizing the crescendoing, trial-long tensions between Gloria Allred and Weinstein lawyer Donna Rotunno, Allred seemed to take the podium right as Rotunno, who had been waiting in the wings, planned to do so. The assembled television network cameramen pleaded with Allred to cede a few minutes to Rotunno, who, seemingly slighted, walked away, only stopping briefly to tell a group of frantic reporters — myself included — that she was "disappointed" with the verdict.
On the other side of the court building, a large group of reporters waited near a side exit to try and catch the jurors for quick interviews. After a long wait, several jurors streamed out, led by court officers who directed them to a bus that spirited them away. Reporters shouted out questions — "Would you like to speak?" "What was it like in there?" "How did it affect you personally?" — that went completely unanswered.
Then, a few minutes later, an enterprising CBS News producer spotted the jury foreman, who had broken away from the pack and was walking quickly away from the courthouse without being noticed. "Isn't that the foreman? That's the foreman!" he said, and a bunch of us followed the foreman down the street and began asking him questions.
Cody kept telling journalists that he would not answer any questions as he walked, but that didn't stop several of them from following him for two or three blocks.
After the jurors had left the premises and the press conferences were all mostly over, the reporters that remained sat down on the pavement to finally write their stories. (I had prepared seven or eight story drafts, after racking my brain to try to figure out how many possible verdict outcomes there were based on the complicated charging sheet.)
Within a few hours, the circus was over, and everyone — except those who were doing live television hits in front of the court house — went home.
In the 49 days since the trial kicked off, on Jan. 6, the hordes of reporters and producers and bookers who have covered the trial from the start had come to call Part 99 home.
We were used to the daily routine of showing up extremely early, braving the cold to wait outside for two or three hours, snaking through the building security line, bolting for an elevator to take us up to the 15th floor, and then waiting for one and a half more hours for the day's proceedings to begin.
When I showed up at 4:50 a.m. on the first day of the trial, I was only the fifth journalist in line. We spent long mornings outside swapping reviews of which hand-and-foot warmers were best and which boots bought you the longest amount of time before you started to lose feeling in your toes. (The feet, we discovered, took the longest amount of time to finally warm up once we got inside.)
The days had been mostly waiting since last Tuesday morning, when the jury began deliberating. Day after day, we sat in the courtroom, trying to keep busy and waiting for the sound of the buzzer. Occasionally, a court officer would let us know that our talking had gotten too loud.
We proved to be an adaptable bunch. The temperature in the courtroom vacillated between extremely cold and extremely hot. Last week, it was common to see reporters sitting in the courtroom wearing buttoned-up winter coats and scarves.
Even on the most monotonous of days, there was a sense in the press corps that we were covering history, and that feeling was proved out by the worldwide interest in yesterday's verdict, which led all of the evening news broadcasts.
While the conviction is in the books and the jurors have been dismissed to get back to their lives, the story is not over for the reporters covering the case. We are due in court again on March 11 for the judge's sentencing, and we'll be back with our hand-warmers and scarves.