Analysis: no guarantee of Maxwell retrial after juror revelations, experts say

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Jeffrey Epstein’s associate Ghislaine Maxwell sits as the guilty verdict in his sexual abuse trial is read in a courtroom skit in New York, United States, December 29, 2021. REUTERS / Jane rosenberg

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NEW YORK, Jan. 7 (Reuters) – The possible failure of a juror in Ghislaine Maxwell’s trial to disclose he was sexually abused may not be enough to overturn the British socialite’s conviction for sex trafficking and warrant a new trial, legal experts said Thursday.

Maxwell, 60, was convicted last week of sex trafficking and other charges for recruiting teenage girls to have sex with Jeffrey Epstein. His lawyers have requested a new trial after the juror told Reuters and other news outlets he shared his experience of sexual abuse during deliberations.

It was not clear whether the juror, who asked to be identified by his first and middle name Scotty David, disclosed this experience during the pre-trial check.

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But not all of the cases of jurors who did not disclose information were not important enough to merit a new trial, experts said, noting that many cases where verdicts were overturned involved jurors who deliberately omitted documents. information to try to be part of the panel.

“The system does not favor setting aside verdicts. We value finality,” said Laurie Levenson, professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, adding that the judge had “wide discretion” in the case.

In U.S. court cases, potential jurors who the judge believes are biased or have a conflict of interest can be removed for cause. After that, the defense and prosecutors can each remove a number of jurors for no particular reason, which is called a peremptory strike.

Prospective jurors in the Maxwell case were asked during a pre-trial quiz if they had ever been sexually assaulted. Those who answered “yes” were then questioned by U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan to see if they could be impartial, court records show.

Scotty David told Reuters on Tuesday he had “hovered over” the form. He said he didn’t recall a question asking if he had ever been sexually abused, but would have answered honestly. He told Reuters he was not asked about any personal experiences of sexual abuse during a follow-up questioning.

In U.S. federal court cases, potential jurors who the judge believes are biased or have a conflict of interest can be removed for cause. After that, the defense and prosecutors can each remove a number of jurors for no particular reason, which is called a peremptory strike.

Scotty David did not respond to a request for comment Thursday. Todd Spodek, a lawyer who appeared in the case on behalf of an anonymous juror after the defense asked for a new trial, also did not respond to a request for comment.

“SHOULD HAVE BEEN REVEALED”

Some experts have said they expect Nathan to consider whether Scotty David could still have been impartial despite his experience of abuse. In deliberations, jurors are allowed to share their personal experiences as long as they do not use it in place of evidence.

But they said Nathan could be limited by asking what happened in the jury room since the judges consider the secrecy of the deliberations to be sacrosanct.

“Just because you’re a victim of sexual assault doesn’t mean you can’t sit on a jury. Just because you’re lying about it doesn’t mean she’s been denied a trial. fair, ”said Zachary Margulis-Ohnuma, senior counsel for ZMO. SARL law.

For example, in 2016, a New York state judge refused to overturn the manslaughter conviction of New York City police officer Peter Liang, despite a juror failing to disclose when of jury selection that her ex-father had been convicted of manslaughter.

The judge said the defense failed to demonstrate that the juror’s actions violated Liang’s right to a fair trial.

There is a precedent for re-ordered trials when jurors are dishonest. In 2012, the late U.S. District Judge William Pauley ordered a new trial for those accused convicted of running a tax shelter program, following revelations that a juror in that case lied during selection. pre-trial.

The juror said she only had a bachelor’s degree and was a “housewife” when she actually graduated from law school. She then admitted to lying to make herself more “marketable” as a juror.

Pauley called the juror a “pathological liar” in his ruling and said if the juror had answered honestly, he would not have let her serve.

The Maxwell case would likely have a different outcome, said Bennett Gershman, a law professor at Pace University, who wrote about the jury’s misconduct. He noted that the jury acquitted Maxwell on one of the charges, suggesting they were responsible in their deliberations.

“This is something that should have been revealed, but which does not appear to have compromised the verdict,” he said.

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Reporting by Luc Cohen and Karen Freifeld in New York Editing by Noeleen Walder

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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