NEW YORK – The jury in Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assault trial suggested Friday that it was hung on the two top counts but unanimous on the others as it headed into a break for the weekend.
Justice James Burke gave juror a brief instruction, roughly a minute long, asking them to continue trying to reach a verdict on all counts. The panel of seven men and five women must be unanimous to reach a verdict – but the language of a note they sent to the judge indicates they are not there on the counts of predatory sexual assault, which are the most severe in the case and carry a sentence of 10 years to life in prison.
“We the jury request to understand if we can be hung on 1 and 3 and unanimous on the other charges,” said the note, which Burke read aloud before calling the jury in to address them.
The note, despite its specificity, does not necessarily reflect the jurors’ eventual verdict – it could have been posing a hypothetical scenario, or could simply reflect their confusion over the complicated charges.
About a half-hour after Burke addressed jurors, they were sent home. The session was already set to end early, at 3 p.m., because Weinstein attorney Donna Rotunno needed to travel home to Chicago to attend a funeral.
In the courtroom, Weinstein, leaning over his walker, looked downtrodden after conferring with his lawyers about the developments. Later, in the hallway, the once-powerful movie producer shrugged and stayed silent as reporters shouted questions about the jury indications.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., who has a lot riding on the high-profile case, had a wide grin across his face as he left the courtroom.
The predatory sexual assault charges that seem to be in dispute both stem from an accusation from “The Sopranos” actress Annabella Sciorra, 59, who testified that Weinstein raped her in late 1993 or early 1994. Jurors would need to conclude that there was a pattern of sexual assault that includes Sciorra’s allegation and the allegations of either or both of the other accusers: Mimi Haleyi and Jessica Mann.
The other charges in the trial are for individual acts alleged by Haleyi and Mann. Haleyi, 42, a former production assistant, testified that Weinstein forced an act of oral sex on her on July 10, 2006, at his New York apartment. Mann, 34, had a consensual five-year relationship with Weinstein but said he forced sex on her twice – once in New York at a DoubleTree Hotel on March 18, 2013, and once in Los Angeles. (He is not being charged in the latter case.)
The jury’s suggestion that they are unanimous on those individual Mann and Haleyi charges could mean that it is planning to convict on at least one of them. If jurors’ unanimity on Mann and Haleyi were for acquittal, they would presumably have to be unanimous on acquittal on the predatory sexual assault charges, since those involve endorsing Mann or Haleyi’s allegations – but they are suggesting they’re hung, not unanimous.
Weinstein, 67, has said that all sexual encounters were consensual.
Three other women were allowed to testify as supporting witnesses in the trial, which began Jan. 6.
Weinstein’s lawyers argued at trial that the women were seeking access to the industry through the powerful producer of Oscar-winning films such as “Shakespeare in Love” and “Pulp Fiction.”
Earlier Friday, the jury heard a requested read-back from Sciorra’s cross-examination. Since the jury began deliberations Tuesday, they have also asked for read-back from the testimony of actress Rosie Perez, Sciorra’s longtime friend, who testified that Sciorra told her decades ago via phone conversation that she had been raped. The jury has also requested emails and read-backs related to Haleyi’s accusation.
Weinstein’s legal team sought to cast doubt on Sciorra’s story by pointing out that it is nearly 30 years old, and arguing that, like the other two accusers, Sciorra did not come forward to authorities with a claim about Weinstein until news reports of his sexual misconduct were published in October 2017.
At the conclusion of this trial, Weinstein will face another set of sex crimes charges in Los Angeles.