Judge won't bar public from Ghislaine Maxwell jury selection

A judge has rejected British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell’s bid to block the public and news media from jury selection in her New York City trial on charges she recruited teenage girls for financier Jeffrey Epstein to sexually abuse

Via AP news wire
Thursday 21 October 2021 21:06
Jeffrey Epstein Associate
Jeffrey Epstein Associate

A judge on Thursday rejected British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell’s bid to block the public and news media from jury selection in her New York City trial on charges she recruited teenage girls for financier Jeffrey Epstein to sexually abuse.

U.S. District Judge Alison J. Nathan said the press and public will be allowed to view the selection proceedings next month via video feeds to an overflow courtroom and a courthouse press room. She said two pool reporters will be let into the courtroom as she questions prospective jurors.

In ruling, Nathan said she strove to balance the public’s right to access court proceedings with health measures, such as adding extra space between parties, that have been put in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, a journalist consortium, and more than a dozen news organizations had written to the judge Wednesday opposing the defense’s request to select jurors in secret.

“We’re all aware that there’s been intense media and public interest in this case. ... These procedures will ensure the First Amendment rights to public access as is necessary and required by law,” Nathan said on a pretrial conference call.

Nathan also denied a defense request to prevent the public from seeing the blank questionnaire that will be given to about 600 people who will be summoned as prospective jurors in the high-profile case.

The selection of 12 primary jurors and six alternates is scheduled to begin Nov. 4, with opening statements set for Nov. 29. For selection primary jurors, the defense will have 10 peremptory challenges and the prosecution will have six, Nathan said. For alternates, each side will get three challenges.

Maxwell’s lawyers argued for questioning prospective jurors behind closed doors because they said that as part of the process they may be asked to divulge sensitive information, such as if they have been sexually abused. Nathan said she would make adjustments on a case-by-case basis to “ensure juror candor and project juror privacy.”

Maxwell lawyer Bobbi Sternheim said letting the public see the questionnaires, which are used to screen the jury pool for biases, hardships, personal connections and awareness of the case, will lead to people lying their way into the jury process. She equated it to a “take-home exam” in which jurors could fill in answers they think will best position them to be selected.

Nathan, who will conduct one-on-one follow-up questioning Nov. 16-19 with prospective jurors who survive the questionnaire phase, responded: “If a jury is going to lie and be dishonest, we will smoke that out. And the fact of this questionnaire being publicly documented is not going to increase or decrease any such likelihood.”

Maxwell, whose father was a British newspaper baron, has pleaded not guilty to charges that she recruited teenage girls from 1994 to 2004 for Epstein to sexually abuse during encounters that sometimes were described as sexualized massages. A revised indictment filed in March includes allegations she groomed a 14-year-old girl to recruit other young females in return for cash.

Epstein killed himself at a Manhattan federal lockup in August 2019, a month after his arrest on sex trafficking charges.

Maxwell, 59, joined the conference call Thursday from an empty room at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, where she has been held since her July 2020 arrest. She didn’t say much, except to complaint about the call’s wonky connection and to assure the judge she was still on the line when another communications mishap occurred.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in