A New York appeals court criticized Manhattan prosecutors on Wednesday for filling out Harvey Weinstein’s rape trial last year with what a judge called “incredibly successful testimony.” opinions” from women whose allegations are not part of the criminal charges against him – an existing strategy with the potential to jeopardize the disgraced movie mogul’s sentence.
Members of the five-judge panel at the state’s intermediate appeals court were outraged by Judge James Burke’s decision to allow witnesses and another ruling that opened the way for prosecutors to confront with Weinstein evidence of other misconduct if he had testified.
Some judges on the panel were open to considering overturning Weinstein’s conviction and ordering a new trial. A decision is not expected until January.
Judge Sallie Manzanet-Daniels was particularly vocal, saying prosecutors had piled on “extremely biased” testimony from additional witnesses and omitted details about Weinstein’s conduct – in some case is overkill.
“Shake the hearts of the jury by telling them he hit his brother in a meeting. I just don’t see how there’s a balance there,” said Manzanet-Daniels, challenging an attorney from the Manhattan district attorney’s office who pleaded with the judges to uphold Weinstein’s conviction.
Weinstein, 69, was convicted in February 2020 of forcible sex offenses performing oral sex on TV and film production assistants in 2006 and rape in the third degree for assaulting a woman. aspiring actress in 2013. He was acquitted of prior-degree rape and two counts of predatory sexual assault stemming from actress Annabella Sciorra’s alleged mid-1990s rape.
The ruling is a watershed moment in the #MeToo movement led by the women behind the allegations against Weinstein. He maintains his chastity and considers any sexual activity consensual.
Burke, the Manhattan judge who presided over Weinstein’s trial, allowed prosecutors to strengthen their case with testimony from three women who allege Weinstein also violated them but whose statements did not lead to charges in the New York case.
Rules for calling witnesses to testify about so-called “previous misconduct” vary by state and were an issue in Bill Cosby’s successful appeal of his sexual assault conviction I’m in Pennsylvania. New York’s rules, shaped by a landmark decision in a 1901 poisoning case, are among the more restrictive.
Weinstein’s attorneys argued that the additional testimony went beyond what is normally allowed – detailing motives, opportunities, intentions or a general scheme or scheme – and essentially put his former boss the studio went to court for crimes for which he was not charged and had no chance. to defend against.
Weinstein’s attorney Barry Kamins told the appeals panel that Burke’s ruling allowing prosecutors to use horror stories from Weinstein’s past to attack his credibility prevented him from standing up as a person. proof.
“The jury was overwhelmed by such bad and prejudicial evidence,” Kamins argued. “This is a trial of Harvey Weinstein’s character. People have made him a bad person. “
Kamins also challenged Burke’s refusal to remove a juror who wrote a novel involving older men hunting, as well as his decision to allow prosecutors to have a behavioral expert. of victims and rape legends testify while refuting the testimony of similar subjects from defense experts.
Weinstein, sentenced to 23 years in prison in New York state, did not attend Wednesday’s debates. He was extradited to California earlier this year and jailed there pending trial for allegedly assaulting five women in Los Angeles and Beverly Hills between 2004 and 2013.