NEW YORK, USA – Ghislaine Maxwell, who was convicted last week of aiding Jeffrey Epstein’s sexual abuses, deserves a new trial, her lawyer said on Wednesday, January 5, after a juror told media including Reuters that he had been a victim of sexual abuse.
In a letter to US District Judge Alison Nathan in Manhattan, who presided over Maxwell’s trial, the lawyer, Christian Everdell, said there were “incontrovertible grounds” for Maxwell to get a new trial, to serve the interest of justice.
He called the matter “an issue of pressing importance,” saying disclosures by the juror “influenced the deliberations and convinced other members of the jury to convict Ms. Maxwell.”
Everdell filed the letter shortly after prosecutors who won the British socialite’s conviction for recruiting underage girls for Epstein to sexually abuse asked Nathan to open an inquiry into the juror’s statements.
The office of US Attorney Damian Williams, which prosecuted Maxwell, declined to comment.
The juror, who asked to be identified by his first and middle names, Scotty David, told Reuters on Tuesday evening that during deliberations, after some jurors questioned some recollections from two of Maxwell’s accusers, he shared his experience of having been sexually abused as a child.
“When I shared that, they were able to sort of come around on, they were able to come around on the memory aspect of the sexual abuse,” Scotty David, a 35-year-old Manhattan resident, said, referring to other jurors.
Scotty David did not immediately reply to a request for comment on Wednesday afternoon.
Nathan’s decision on whether a new trial is warranted could hinge on how Scotty David responded to questions during jury selection about his experiences with sexual abuse, which legal experts said was a key question that defense lawyers were looking at to weed out potentially biased jurors.
Hundreds of prospective jurors filled out questionnaires that asked them, among other things, if they or their family members had experienced sexual abuse or assault.
During follow-up questioning, Nathan asked those who answered “yes” if they would still be able to be fair and impartial.
Scotty David told Reuters he did not recall a question about personal experiences with sexual abuse on the questionnaire, but that he would have answered honestly. He said he “flew through” the questionnaire.
He said Nathan did not ask about his personal experience with sexual abuse during follow-up questioning.
Prosecutors said the juror’s statements to the media “merit attention” by the court and asked for a hearing to be scheduled in about a month.
Media cited by prosecutors include Reuters, the Daily Mail and The Independent.
Mistake or omission
Moira Penza, a partner at the Wilkinson Stekloff law firm and a former federal prosecutor, said any inquiry would likely focus on whether the juror made a mistake or omission in answering questions on an initial screening questionnaire for prospective jurors or follow-up questions from the judge.
“Defense lawyers will argue that this question was so part and parcel to figuring out that juror’s bias or any juror’s bias,” she said.
Nathan gave Maxwell’s lawyers until January 19 to formally request a new trial and explain whether an inquiry is needed, with a response from prosecutors due by February 2. She also said Scotty David can receive a court-appointed lawyer.
Maxwell, 60, was convicted on December 29 of sex trafficking and other charges for recruiting and grooming underage girls for Epstein to abuse between 1994 and 2004.
She faces up to 65 years in prison and had been expected to appeal her conviction, which followed a monthlong trial.
Epstein, a financier and convicted sex offender, killed himself in August 2019 in a Manhattan jail while awaiting his own sex trafficking trial. – Rappler.com