Ghislaine Maxwell granted permission to request retrial after juror reveals childhood sex abuse
A New York judge has allowed Ghislaine Maxwell’s lawyers to move for a retrial amid questions over whether a juror failed to disclose he was a victim of childhood sexual abuse.
Judge Alison Nathan gave the defence a January 19 deadline to file a motion to vacate Maxwell’s sex-trafficking conviction and offered the juror in question a court-appointed lawyer.
Maxwell's attorneys told the Manhattan court on Wednesday that there were "incontrovertible grounds for a new trial" after the juror revealed that he used his experience as a survivor of abuse to guide jury deliberations.
It came an hour after prosecutors themselves asked Judge Nathan to hold an inquiry into interviews the juror gave to various media outlets. It is not clear if the man, who gave his name as "Scotty David", revealed the information on the jury questionnaire during selection, as he was required to do.
“Scotty" admitted this week that he helped the jury reach a guilty verdict that saw Maxwell, 60, convicted and facing up to 65 years in prison.
He also told jurors how he had waited until secondary school before telling anyone about his abuse, in an effort to justify why some of Maxwell’s victims may not have come forward earlier.
Provided by The Telegraph he photo was entered into evidence by the U.S. Attorney's Office - Reuters
“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,” he told Reuters.
Separately, in an interview with The New York Times, a second juror described having been sexually abused as a child and said that they, too, had discussed the experience during deliberations.
The revelation, this juror said, appeared to help shape the jury’s discussions.
“We believe the law and the facts and are clearly on our side,” Christian Everdell, for the defence, wrote in a filing on Wednesday. “Ms Maxwell should not have to expend precious time and resources briefing other motions.”
Questionnaire given to jurors asked about sexual abuse
During jury selection, some 230 prospective jurors were given questionnaires asking, among other things, if they or anyone in their families had experienced sexual abuse, court records show.
Legal experts told the Telegraph on Tuesday that the revelations risked a possible mistrial if the juror had not been fully transparent on the court’s questionnaire form prospective jurors were required to fill out during the selection process.
“The juror asserted that he ‘flew through’ the prospective juror questionnaire and does not recall being asked whether he had been a victim of sexual abuse,” attorneys for Southern District of New York wrote in a filing on Wednesday. “Based on the foregoing, the Government believes the Court should conduct an inquiry,” they said, proposing a hearing next month.
Question 48 of 51 on the questionnaire jurors were given was: "Have you or a friend or family member ever been the victim of sexual harassment, sexual abuse, or sexual assault?," followed by: "If yes, do you believe that this would affect your ability to serve fairly and impartially as a juror in this case?"
In an interview with the MailOnline on Wednesday, juror "Scotty David" said he could not remember that question. “They don't ask your sexual abuse history," he said. "They didn't ask it in the questionnaire."
He then said, however, that he would have answered "honestly".
The US legal system allows both the prosecution and defence teams to veto candidates. In selecting 12 primary jurors, Maxwell’s team had 10 challenges and the prosecution six.
One potential juror was dismissed during the judge’s questioning, known as voir dire, after she told the court she informed her sister’s school of alleged sexual abuse her sister had suffered at the hands of a teacher.
If it was not disclosed in the questionnaire jurors were made to fill out before selection, this “could definitely be an issue,” Moira Penza, a former federal prosecutor in New York, told The Telegraph. “I certainly hope the juror disclosed this fully on his questionnaire. A little strange the defence didn’t strike him.
“In the first instance it would likely form the basis for a motion to Judge (Alison) Nathan for a new trial,” she said.
There is precedent in the state of New York for a court to conduct a hearing into the truthfulness of a juror.
In the US v drug dealer Edward Langford, a 1993 case cited by New York prosecutors in their filing, a juror lied about previous convictions relating to prostitution.
The judge ordered an investigation, but ultimately ruled that "where a juror's intentionally false statements at voir dire were caused by embarrassment, and there was no evidence that she gave false answers because of any desire to sit on the jury, it was proper for district court to deny defendant's motion for new trial.”
In the Maxwell case, however, the nature of the abuse in question is strikingly similar to the charges faced by the disgraced British socialite, so it is possible the judge may take a different view.
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