NEW YORK (Reuters) – More than 100 potential jurors in the rape trial of Harvey Weinstein were expected in Manhattan criminal court on Thursday as lawyers strive to choose 12 impartial New Yorkers to decide the former film mogul’s fate.
FILE PHOTO: Film producer Harvey Weinstein arrives at New York Criminal Court for his sexual assault trial in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., January 15, 2020. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
The potential jurors, who have passed an initial round of pre-screening, include supermodel Gigi Hadid, who said she had met Weinstein before but could nonetheless be fair.
Weinstein, 67, has pleaded not guilty to charges of assaulting two women, and faces life in prison if convicted on the most serious charge, predatory sexual assault.
Since 2017, more than 80 women, including many famous actresses, have accused him of sexual misconduct dating back decades. Weinstein has denied the allegations, saying any sexual encounters he had were consensual.
The allegations helped fuel the #MeToo movement, in which women have gone public with misconduct allegations against powerful men in business, entertainment and politics.
Weinstein’s trial kicked off on Jan. 6 and is expected to last up to months.
During pre-screening, hundreds of potential jurors were asked whether they could be impartial and if their schedules and health allowed them to sit on the trial. In the next phase, known as voir dire, they will face detailed questions about their backgrounds and beliefs by lawyers on both sides.
Legal experts have said selecting impartial jurors in a case that has attracted a great deal of publicity could be difficult.
Both sides will likely question potential jurors about their knowledge and opinion of the case, their work history and whether they have been victims of sexual misconduct, experts said.
Many potential jurors were dismissed in pre-screening after saying they could not be fair and impartial in the case.
Weinstein, once one of Hollywood’s most powerful producers, made his mark with critically acclaimed films such as “The English Patient” and “Shakespeare in Love.”
On Jan. 6, as the New York trial began, Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced new sexual assault charges against Weinstein.
On Wednesday, Weinstein filed a last-minute motion with a New York appellate court to have his trial delayed and moved out of Manhattan.
Weinstein last year sought to move the case to Long Island or Albany, saying media scrutiny in Manhattan would make a fair trial impossible, but the motion was denied.
Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Tom Brown