January 6, 2022
Ghislaine Maxwell’s lawyers will seek a new trial after a juror told the media that he had been a victim of sexual abuse.
Maxwell was convicted last week of aiding Jeffrey Epstein’s sexual abuses.
In a letter to U.S. 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.
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.”
“Nathan’s decision on whether a new trial is warranted could hinge on how the juror 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,” Reuters reported.
“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 expressed skepticism about the accounts of two of Maxwell’s accusers, he shared his experience of having been sexually abused as a child,” Reuters added.
“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.
Juror No. 50 was one of the 18 jurors selected on Nov. 29 to serve as a juror or an alternate.
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.
During follow-up questioning on Nov. 16, Juror No. 50 told Nathan that he had read a news article and seen a CNN broadcast about Epstein’s death. The juror said he heard that Epstein had a girlfriend, but that he otherwise knew nothing about Maxwell.
When Nathan asked Juror No. 50 if he could put aside anything he read or heard to reach an impartial verdict, he replied, “Yes, absolutely.”
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.
“Later on Tuesday, The New York Times reported that a second juror described having been sexually abused as a child during deliberations. That juror, who requested anonymity to speak to the Times, said this revelation appeared to help shape the jury’s discussion,” Reuters reported.
Soon after Maxwell was found guilty last week, some argued that she may have a strong argument in her appeal.
The Daily Mail’s Daniel Bates published a report arguing that Maxwell has “four possible grounds for appeal – including the judge’s decision to force the jury to work through New Year’s Eve holiday due to the coronavirus.”
“Lawyers for the former socialite, who is facing 65 years in jail for recruiting and trafficking underage girls for Jeffrey Epstein, could zero in on how Judge Alison Nathan handled the case as they seek to overturn the conviction. Their primary argument will likely be how Judge Nathan ordered the jury to sit every single day of the final week until they reached a verdict,” Bates wrote.
That would have included New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, even though it falls on a Saturday and is a public holiday, and Sunday as well. Maxwell’s lawyers complained that such instructions were essentially telling the jury they needed to ‘hurry up’. Judge Nathan said that the move was necessary because the ‘astronomical’ numbers of Covid-19 cases fueled by the Omicron variant meant there was a real risk of a ‘mistrial’.
But at the end of that very day the jury came back with their verdict.
Other issues which could be raised on appeal include how Judge Nathan handled a question from the panel about count four – transportation of an individual under the age of 17 with intent to engage in illegal sexual activity – on which Maxwell was convicted.
Maxwell’s lawyers are likely to raise concerns about a jury note related to the accuser Annie Farmer and counts one and three, on which they also found Maxwell guilty. Fourthly, Maxwell’s lawyers could object to how Judge Nathan brusquely handled their request for the US Marshals to force one witness to attend court, a request they ultimately dropped.
“Judge Nathan’s handling of the jury instructions about the coronavirus will undoubtedly feature highly in Maxwell’s appeal,” Bates wrote.