Both sides finished their closing arguments and the jury began deliberating on the fate of Harvey Weinstein, the once-powerful movie producer who has been implicated in hundreds of accusations of predatory sexual abuse. The judge delivered instructions to jurors to “use their common sense” which is generally good for prosecutors and bad for defendants, as common sense has a way of siding with authority in these matters. However, in this case, the judge’s directives may have echoed the closing arguments of Weinstein’s lawyer Donna Rotunno, who specializes in sexual assault criminal defense.
Nonetheless, jurors sent a note asking for the legal definition of consent and forcible compulsion and questioned why Weinstein was not charged in connection with the alleged rape of actress Annabella Sciorra.
Further instructions stipulated that jurors who found Weinstein not guilty of one count must find him not guilty of other counts, as well. The judge defined forcible sexual intercourse and predatory sexual assault, among other terms, for the jurors.
Understanding the Defense’s Position
Sexual assault defenses generally include an admission that some form of sexual contact occurred but deny that the sexual contact was compulsory or forcible. In other words, they simply state that while sexual contact did occur, it was consensual, and was therefore not a crime regardless of how the complainant felt afterward about the experience.
Making matters more interesting is the fact that Rotunno published an op-ed in Newsweek that appeared to directly address those who were on the jury and echoed much of the same language Rotunno used in her closing argument. Prosecutors believed that the op-ed was illegal because it violated a court order to not address jurors outside of the courtroom. Prosecutors hoped for a much more stern reaction than they got from the judge. They asked the judge to lock Weinstein up as punishment for Rotunno’s actions and to tell the jury that the conduct of defense counsel was wrong and illegal. The judge simply reminded Rotunno to not directly address the jury through the media and moved on. This was surely not the result they were hoping for.
Rotunno introduced evidence that two of the women who accused Weinstein of sexual assault maintained friendly relationships with him after the alleged assault took place. She also pointed to holes in their testimony. The prosecution argued that regardless of whether or not the accusers had contact with Weinstein after the sexual assault occurred, it had no bearing on whether or not he committed rape. The prosecution discussed the incredible power that Weinstein wielded over his victim pool and the necessity of keeping up appearances with a man as powerful as him.
This trial, which is taking place in Manhattan, may be the first of many against Weinstein who also faces charges in L.A. County.
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