Harvey Weinstein, convicted in a Manhattan courtroom on Monday of rape and a forcible sexual act, may be awaiting his March 11 sentencing from prison, but another courtroom saga lies ahead of him on the other side of the country — and a timeline for that case may come sooner rather than later.
“Justice delayed is justice denied,” Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor who now runs West Coast Trial Lawyers, told TheWrap. Since the L.A. district attorney’s office has “already taken a backseat to New York,” he said, “I would expect L.A. to writ Weinstein over as soon as possible to face these charges.”
In January, just as jury selection was beginning in New York, the L.A. district attorney’s office charged Weinstein based on the accounts of two women: an unnamed Italian actress and model who said the convicted producer raped her at a Beverly Hills Hotel in 2013 and Lauren Young, a model who testified in the Manhattan trial as a “prior bad acts” witness and said Weinstein groped her breast and masturbated in front of her that same year.
In L.A., Weinstein — who has denied accusations of nonconsensual sex — faces one felony count each of forcible rape, forcible oral copulation, sexual penetration by use of force and sexual battery by restraint. He has not yet been arraigned in Los Angeles and the prosecutor has not commented on how soon a trial might begin. “We are definitely proceeding,” Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Paul Thompson said in a statement.
Much like the Manhattan trial, jury selection will be crucial for both sides. But now that Weinstein has already received a guilty verdict in another criminal trial, jury selection experts said that the process in California will likely take much longer because of it.
Robert Swafford, a jury consultant who founded Strike for Cause, said prospective jurors are generally instructed that they can’t consider past convictions as evidence toward whether the defendant committed the crimes they’re charged with in another case — but with a guilty verdict as high-profile as Weinstein’s, attorneys will need to discern through questionnaires or in voir dire how a prospective juror may or may not use that information in considering the evidence in the Los Angeles case.
“If I were on Harvey Weinstein’s team, I would just be trying to get rid of people,” Swafford said of the jury selection process. “It takes a lot of skill to be able to get somebody to tell the truth about something whenever a judge is telling you, ‘You have to be fair, you have to follow the law, you have to follow the judge’s instructions, you have to have an open mind.'”
Though Swafford said prospective jurors wouldn’t necessarily lie about whether they could put aside their past knowledge of Weinstein’s Manhattan guilty verdict, he said they likely wouldn’t have the proper “insight” into how they actually would or have already been influenced by the news.
For the defense, some questions Swafford would ask include, “Who here has heard about the verdict in New York, how would that affect you if you were to be a juror on this case? What have you heard? Have you talked to your friends and family members about this? What opinion have you expressed? Have you expressed any opinions on social media, on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram? Have you posted any memes of this?”
But for the prosecution, it would be a matter of trying to “hold on” to as many prospective jurors as possible and avoid reaching a mistrial situation if panel after panel gets “burned.”
Still, before any of this happens, an exchange of Weinstein’s custody must take place between New York and Los Angeles. And moving on to the L.A. case quickly, according to criminal defense attorney Mark Geragos, would be the “smartest thing” for Weinstein to do so that he can get credit for the time he spends in L.A.’s custody — and not in Rikers Island or whatever New York prison he’s sent after his sentencing next month.