Gigi Hadid dismissed as juror in Harvey Weinstein trial

Weinstein’s legal team wrote in a motion that the model was friends with Cara Delevingne, who has accused him of misconduct

Gigi Hadid will not be sitting in judgment over Harvey Weinstein after the supermodel was discharged as a potential juror in the rape trial of the once powerful movie mogul.

Hadid, 24, made it through the first round of culling of a giant pool of possible jurors for the New York trial. In the course of questioning in court, she revealed that she had met Weinstein personally though she said that she still felt able to be fair and impartial were she put on the jury.

On Wednesday the defendant’s legal team released further details on Hadid in an 87-page motion complaining about the way the trial was being conducted in a “carnival-like atmosphere”. Weinstein’s lawyer Arthur Aidala wrote that the Victoria’s Secret model was friends with Cara Delevingne, one of 105 women who have publicly accused the film producer of various sorts of sexual misconduct towards them.

In court on Thursday, it was disclosed that 62 potential jurors have been dismissed overnight. One of them is Hadid.

As a further twist, Judge James Burke of the New York supreme court hauled in front of him a member of the initial jury pool who had made the rash move of tweeting about proceedings. Weinstein’s eagle-eyed attorneys have been scouring social media for signs of bias among possible jurors and caught two people in the act.

One of the posts published by Weinstein’s lawyers had a member of the jury pool tweeting: “If anyone knows how a person might hypothetically leverage serving on the jury of a high-profile case to promote their new novel, dm me please.”

Replies to the tweet included: “Whoever you have to sleep with to get on that jury, do it.”

Burke instructed the male juror to return to court in March ready “to show cause – to tell me why – I should not hold you in contempt”. The man faces a fine and up to 30 days in jail for violating the court’s order not to discuss the proceedings on social media.

Weinstein, 67, faces five counts. The two most serious counts of predatory sexual assault carry the most severe punishment of up to life in prison, and he also faces two counts of rape and one of a criminal sex act relating to two accusers. He has pleaded not guilty to these charges, which relate to incidents alleged by two female accusers in 2006 and 2013. If convicted on the most serious charge, he could face a life sentence.

The trial is now entering a second, more intense phase of jury selection that will produce the final panel of 12 jurors and six alternates ahead of opening statements scheduled for next Wednesday. The overall process will take two weeks, whittling down the vast pool which began with 608 individuals.

Of those, many told the court that they felt they were unable to deliver fair and impartial justice towards Weinstein, without stipulating the reasons why. The defense team has seized on the large proportion of potential jurors who effectively recused themselves to argue that the trial is being conducted amid a “deluge” of adverse media publicity that will taint the trial.

The initial filtering process has reduced the pool to 146 people who now face individual questioning by both defense and prosecution teams – a stage known as voir dire.

On Thursday Donna Rotunno, Weinstein’s leading defense lawyer, made yet another attempt to have the rules of the trial changed. The team has made multiple efforts to have it moved out of New York city on grounds that it is the “media capital of the world” and has called for jury selection to be held in private – all of which have been denied.

On this occasion Rotunno argued for voir dire to be conducted with each of the 146 in isolation to avoid their answers tainting others. Burke denied that too, expressing his anger at a recent comment made by Weinstein’s lawyers that the jury selection process was being conducted as though it were “business as usual”.

“Voir dire is hardly business as usual,” Burke told the four lawyers who were sitting next to Weinstein on the defense side of court. “We have determined 62 jurors who based on their questionnaires have been discharged – that means the voir dire is working and it is hardly grounds for a fairly drastic remedy of the kind you request.”

To underline his chagrin, Burke added: “The manner in which we are doing this three-part, laborious, time-consuming, multiple jury panel prospective juror-devouring method is working.”

Among the 146 remaining jurors there are 31 people who have indicated on questionnaires that they have some experience of sexual assault – either personally or through a friend or family member. Weinstein’s team argued that those 31 should also be discharged as they would be unable to be fair towards the defendant.

But the lead prosecutor, Joan Illuzzi, robustly countered that suggestion. “I don’t think the defense could possibly say that a person who has been sexually assaulted or who knows someone who has been sexually assaulted is no longer qualified to sit on the case. That is not the law.”

A total of six women are likely to testify to having been the victims of alleged sexual crimes by the defendant once the trial proper begins next week. Their stories form a tiny portion of the total of 105 women who have come forward to accuse Weinstein of sexual misconduct to a varying degree of seriousness.


Ed Pilkington in New York

The GuardianTramp

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