On Monday morning, after the Oscar nominations were announced, onetime awards potentate Harvey Weinstein returned to a New York City courtroom, where he stands trial for rape.
Pushing a walker as he has in recent weeks, his posture stooped after back surgery, Weinstein appeared before New York Supreme Court Judge James Burke. The trial is now in its second week and jury selection remains the focus, with the process made more complex by the defendant’s notoriety. Dozens of prospective jurors were dismissed last week after revealing various connections with Weinstein or conceding they have closely followed media coverage of the case.
Model Gigi Hadid was among several dozen potential jurors filing into the 15th-floor courtroom.
According to a pool report of the jury selection proceedings (which were closed to all but a handful of reporters), Hadid raised her hand during the selection process and mentioned she had met Salma Hayek.
“Is there anything about having met them that makes you unable to be an impartial juror?” Burke asked.
“I think I’m still able to keep an open mind on the facts,” Hadid replied.
Hayek, Charlize Theron and Rosie Perez are among the names mentioned to potential jurors as ones that could be mentioned during the trial, in a bid to avoid any conflicts of interest.
In a brief exchange Monday prior to the jury selection began, Burke queried lead prosecutor Joan Illuzzi about efforts by the D.A.’s office to identify how many prospective jurors would get the prosecution’s backing. Illuzzi said 108 people had filled out questionnaires.
“I am directing you to meet and come to a conclusion about what kind of number,” Burke said, standing at the bench and shuffling papers. “I just want to know if there are, like 10 people or more like 70 that you’re giving consent to.”
Burke also raised — but did not immediately issue a ruling on — a request made Friday by defense attorney Arthur Aidala last Friday to have jury selection occur without any members of the press or public present. “Jury selection in this case requires additional procedures to protect Mr. Weinstein’s Constitutional right to a fair and impartial jury,” Aidala wrote in a court filing.
Aidala’s request raised a “potpourri of items,” Burke said. “Overall, my response is that the multiple-stage method that we have set out” is working well, he added.
All but a handful of pool reporters were cleared out of the courtroom to make room for prospective jurors on Monday, as has been the protocol in recent days. The painstaking approach to jury selection is one reason the trial is expected to stretch on for two months, in the estimation of many participants and legal observers. Opening arguments are expected to begin in the middle of next week.
Weinstein faces five felony counts stemming from the accounts of two women, who say they were assaulted by Weinstein in separate incidents in 2006 and 2013. In all, some 80 women have accused the former co-head of Miramax and the Weinstein Co. of sexual misconduct, with the initial reports about the allegations in 2017 helping to inspire the #MeToo movement.
After the New York trial concludes, Weinstein will face sexual assault charges in Los Angeles. Authorities in London are also investigating allegations in that jurisdiction.