Inside Harvey Weinstein Trial Jury Selection and Why Neither Side Wanted Gigi Hadid

Model’s celebrity status could have influenced other jurors, a former U.S. assistant attorney argues

Harvey Weinstein Gigi Hadid
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Model Gigi Hadid was dismissed as a potential juror in the criminal trial of Harvey Weinstein on Thursday, and legal experts aren’t surprised by her exclusion.

When seeking the removal of prospective jurors, Robert Swafford, a jury consultant expert and founder of Strike for Cause, told TheWrap that attorneys are looking to differentiate between “leaders” who are likely to sway the opinions of other jurors and “followers” who will likely vote similarly to others.

Hadid, for example, would be a prime example of a “leader” that attorneys would probably want to remove from a jury because her celebrity status could exert undue influence on the opinions of other jurors, Swafford said. But this is also something that the defense and prosecution can test out during the jury selection process, known as voir dire.

Neama Rahmani, a former U.S. assistant attorney and co-founder of West Coast Trial Lawyers, said a possible tactic could have been to ask Hadid if she has felt uncomfortable in a professional context because of a male colleague, or if she has even experienced sexual harassment or assault herself, and then turn to the rest of the panel to see if anyone agrees or disagrees with elements of her response.

“Sometimes when we have celebrity jurors, folks might be enamored by that and sort of go along with whatever their position is,” Rahmani said. “You want to make sure that you know exactly which way that person is leaning, because you’re potentially going all-in on that one juror.”

Still, the likelihood of Hadid making it through to become a juror was slim, especially given that Weinstein’s defense already signaled their concern with the model’s presence earlier this week.

“The presence of Ms. Hadid, who informed the Trial Court that she is able to be a fair juror even though she has met Mr. Weinstein before and is a noted friend of Weinstein accuser Cara Delevingne, only contributes to the carnival-like atmosphere,” attorney Arthur Aidala wrote in a motion filed on Wednesday afternoon. “Ms. Hadid attracts her own press and her presence also increases the number of spectators and protestors outside of the courthouse.”

But aside from celebrity jurors, experts who spoke with TheWrap said that finding a jury is more a “process of deselection” than that of selection.

“The only thing you have control over is getting rid of people,” Swafford said. “You’re trying to decide, ‘Who is the worst person for you?’”

Already through the prescreening portion of jury selection, which wrapped up on Wednesday, hundreds of prospective jurors have said they cannot be impartial for various reasons, including that they’ve read Ronan Farrow’s best-selling exposé “Catch and Kill,” have read too much about Weinstein and have already made up their minds, or are friends with people related to the case. But for those who have moved on to the next stage, attorneys on both sides will be looking to move past simple “yes” or “no” questions and pick apart prospective jurors thoughts on controversial topics.

“You really want to expose implicit biases,” Rahmani said. One such question, Rahmani said, could be asking if prospective jurors are comfortable following the law if it allows for defendants to be convicted based on the testimony of alleged victims.

The defense and prosecution will also be on the lookout for “stealth jurors” who are not fair nor impartial but want to appear so because they have ulterior motives to get on the jury.

“They either want to convict, acquit or make money off the case after the case by writing a book or something,” Rahmani said. Jury consultants will be doing their research on each of the prospective jurors, and that will include looking for inconsistencies in their responses and an unusual desire to get chosen for the jury.

“Most people are dying to get off (jury duty),” he said. “That’s the typical behavior.”

But as for those who have indicated a familiarity with the case and the accusations against Weinstein, that fact alone does not immediately disqualify a person either.

“The question is, would (that knowledge) affect how you ultimately decide the case?” Swafford asked, noting the paradox of asking someone not to think about something. “It’s an absurdity that we deal with all the time.”

Opening statements for the trial are expected to begin next Wednesday.

The former Hollywood producer, who pleaded not guilty at his first indictment in August, faces five felony counts: two counts of predatory sexual assault, one count of first-degree criminal sexual assault, one count of first-degree rape and one count of third-degree.