UPDATED 3:38 p.m./ET, with additional jury requests: The jury in the Harvey Weinstein rape trial has requested to view emails written in 2017 by Harvey Weinstein to his private detectives “red flagging” women he felt were top-priority for investigation. One of the flagged women was actress Annabella Sciorra.
Earlier today, the jury sent questions to New York Supreme Court Judge James Burke asking why there are no “stand-alone” charges in the case of actress Sciorra, a question one of Weinstein’s attorneys suggested might indicate the jurors are leaning toward believing the actress but not the complainants Jessica Mann and Miriam Haley.
Such tea-leaf reading is just that, but the jury’s questions certainly indicate some confusion about Sciorra’s role in the trial. The Sopranos actress testified about her alleged rape by Weinstein during the winter of 1993-1994, but the statute of limitations on rape charges has expired; her testimony only pertains to two predatory sexual assault charges in the cases of Mann and Haley. Sciorra’s testimony can be used to support the predatory assault charges — i.e., to prove Weinstein’s pattern of assaultive behavior.
In order to find the defendant guilty of the two predatory charges, which carry a possible life sentence, jurors must find that Weinstein is guilty of raping or assaulting both Mann and Sciorra, and/or Haley and Sciorra. There are no stand-alone charges before the jury involving only Sciorra.
The judge recalled the jury to answer its questions, telling jurors they were not to consider or speculate on any charges not before them.
Later, around 3:10 p.m. New York time, the jury requested to view emails in which certain women were marked in red, an apparent reference to emails sent by Weinstein in 2017 to his private investigator listing women the producer suspected might be cooperating with journalist Ronan Farrow. Weinstein “red-flagged” names he considered a top-priority, Sciorra among them.
In one email, apparently now being viewed by the jury, Weinstein told his investigator that Sciorra had appeared in Cop Land (a 1997 Miramax movie, filmed at least several years after Sciorra says Weinstein raped her). “This was consensual or deny it,” Weinstein instructed.
The jury also requested to see blueprints of Weinstein’s Soho apartment.
Earlier today, the judge issued his legal instructions to the jury, prior to deliberations, and denied two last-minute motions from attorneys on both sides of the room.
Lead prosecutor Joan Illuzzi asked the judge to include a jury instruction regarding what she claimed was the “borderline jury tampering” of defense attorney Donna Rotunno’s recent op-ed piece for Newsweek.
The judge did not make reference to the article in his jury instructions.
Also, the judge denied a motion by Weinstein’s attorneys to dismiss a juror who, they discovered, had recently read (and written an online review of) a novel about a woman and a sexual predator.
The novel, Kate Elizabeth Russell’s My Dark Vanessa, focuses on the psychological dynamics of a relationship between a naïve teenage girl and her manipulative teacher.
Prosecutor Illuzzi called the defense request “an end run around the fact that they ran out of challenges and do not like” the female juror.
The juror was questioned by the judge in the public courtroom – without the other jurors present – and Burke subsequently decided she had broken no rules. “Jurors are allowed to read books,” he said.
When the judge declined to replace the juror with an alternate, defense attorney Damon Cheronis called for a mistrial, as the defense has done numerous times throughout the trial. “Almost goes without saying,” the judge said after the mistrial request, which he did not grant.
In addition to the standard jury instructions — burden of proof, presumption of innocence, etc. — Burke outlined the five felony counts against Weinstein, including rape and sexual assault charges in the cases of Mann and Haley, and predatory sexual assault charges in the cases of Mann, Haley and Sciorra.
Earlier this morning, prosecutors slammed an op-ed piece written for Newsweek by Rotunno, calling the article an attempt at “jury tampering.”
Rotunno’s article, published yesterday, was written as a direct plea to the jury to “do what they know is right” and find Weinstein not guilty based on evidence and testimony presented in the monthlong trial.
Illuzzi asked Burke to sanction Rotunno’s behavior by including an instruction to the jury about the incident and also by remanding Weinstein to custody for his possible involvement.
Illuzzi said “there’s no way Ms. Rotunno” wrote the op-ed without Weinstein’s “prompting and encouragement and the knowledge and the permission…”
“If this is the conduct that is allowed to persist in this courthouse, Judge, then we are all lost,” Illuzzi said.
Rotunno’s co-counsel Damon Cheronis attempted to swat away Illuzzi’s consternation, telling the judge that the jury had already been instructed not to read or watch any media accounts of the trial.
“Miss Rotunno,” said the judge, “I’d like to hear from you — what were you thinking?”
Rotunno said the op-ed was merely her take on the jury system as a whole and included nothing she hadn’t said in her closing argument to the jury. She also suggested the op-ed was merely a counter-balance to the “media attacks against Mr. Weinstein every single day.”
Rotunno added that “every day” the prosecutors called Weinstein a “predator” and a “rapist,” and “that’s not true.”
Countered Illuzzi, “That’s a ridiculous response.” The prosecutor said the op-ed was not a general “academic piece” about the jury system but was specifically about the Weinstein case and written as a direct plea to the jury. She pointed out that “predatory” and “rape” are the words used in the very legal charges against Weinstein.
As for Rotunno’s written hope that the jury do the right thing, Illuzzi said, “We would hope to God that the right thing is to convict this man of the charges he was indicted for.”
The judge told the defense team not to talk to the press – an order he’s given before – and said, “I would caution against the tentacles of your public relations juggernaut.”
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