Why the Weinstein Trial Jurors Are Deliberating Slowly

Harvey Weinstein arrives to with lawyer Donna Rotunno (R) court on February 19, 2020 - Getty - H 2020
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The 12 men and women who will decide Harvey Weinstein's fate in New York County are proceeding slowly and surely.

That has been evident since they began deliberating on the five criminal charges facing Weinstein on Tuesday morning. Wednesday's session, like Tuesday's, ended without a verdict.

But trial observers have been able to get a window into the jurors' progress by way of the five notes — containing requests — they have passed along to the judge.

Much of the morning session on Wednesday was occupied by a rereading of the testimony given by a key witness, Miriam Haley, on Jan. 27, after a request from the jury. "We request the testimony of Miriam Haley," the jury said in the note. "Reread to us, please ..."

The jury has been given five criminal charges to ponder, and Haley's testimony is germane only to the first two, including the first and most serious charge, predatory sexual assault in the first degree.

Judge James Burke has instructed the jury to focus first on the predatory sexual assault charges, which pair the testimony of Haley and key accuser Jessica Mann with the allegations of Sopranos actress Annabella Sciorra.

If Weinstein is found to have committed a first-degree sexual offense against Haley and Sciorra or Mann and Sciorra, or both pairs, he could be sentenced to life in prison.

On Tuesday, the first day of deliberation, the jury sent two notes to the judge, including one that was sent only about 40 minutes into the sequestered process.

The jurors wanted to know the legal definitions of terms like "consent" and "forcible compulsion." They also wanted to see a blueprint of Weinstein's SoHo apartment, where Haley says that Weinstein forced oral sex on her, and to understand the statute of limitations as it relates to Sciorra's 1993 rape claim. 

Earlier Wednesday, the jurors wanted the judge to reread and re-explain the first two charges. They also requested to see emails between Haley and Weinstein, leading to a lengthy conversation between defense and prosecution lawyers.

On Wednesday afternoon, the jurors asked to be read actress Rosie Perez's Jan. 24 testimony, during which she told jurors that Sciorra had told her about the alleged rape — though she didn't initially name her assaulter.

The panel also asked for all written and digital communications mentioning Sciorra, including emails that pertain to private investigators tasked with keeping tabs on her.

Thus far, throughout the first two days of the deliberation, the notes have only related to Haley and Sciorra, suggesting that the jury has not begun considering Mann's allegations, which are part of the third, fourth and fifth charges.

If the jury wants to convict Weinstein on Mann's allegations, but does not think that Sciorra's case should be included, they have the option of finding Weinstein guilty of first or third degree rape. (The jury cannot convict Weinstein of both rape charges, however.)

While the jury is focused, full-time, on deliberating until they reach a verdict, the daily court schedule only affords them a limited amount of time to do so.

The process begins each day at 9:30 a.m. and continues until a 75-minute lunch break that begins at 1 p.m. Unless the jurors choose to deliberate through lunch, they pick up their work at 2:15 p.m. and continue until approximately 4:30 p.m. each day. (A bell rings when the jury has a note to send to the judge.)

The deliberation process will pick up again on Thursday morning.

During the jury selection process, the judge told prospective jurors that the trial could run until Friday, March 6, though it has moved more swiftly than some observers expected.