A member of the jury who convicted Ghislaine Maxwell last year could be forced to testify about whether he intentionally misled the court during the jury selection process – a key issue in Ms Maxwell’s efforts to secure a new trial.
The juror, a Manhattan man known as Juror 50, told media after the trial that during deliberations he described being sexually abused. The revelation clouded the verdict because the juror failed to disclose this story during pre-trial jury selection, leading Ms Maxwell to claim she was deprived of a fair and impartial jury.
Ms Maxwell, 60, the former girlfriend of disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, was found guilty on December 29 of sex trafficking and four of five other charges against her. At the trial, jurors heard three weeks of evidence showing Ms Maxwell helped Mr Epstein recruit, groom and sexually abuse underage girls over a decade.
In a letter released Wednesday, federal prosecutors in Manhattan told a judge they were seeking Justice Department approval for an order compelling juror testimony at a hearing next week, in which he would answer questions under oath about his actions.
The government acted after attorney for juror 50, Todd A. Spodek, advised Federal District Court Judge Alison J. Nathan that his client “would be invoking his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination during of the audience”. Mr. Spodek’s letter was also made public on Wednesday.
If the juror is required to testify, they will also receive immunity from prosecution under the order sought by the office of Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Juror 50 revealed in post-trial interviews that he told fellow jurors during deliberations that he had been sexually abused as a child and had not told anyone for years. Juror 50 said in an interview with DailyMail.com that upon telling his story, the jury room “went silent”.
Understanding the Ghislaine Maxwell trial
The article also quoted him as saying he helped fellow jurors understand things from a victim’s perspective.
In an interview with Reuters, Juror 50 said some jurors had questioned the memories of two of Ms Maxwell’s accusers who testified at trial, but after telling her story he said: “They were able to come back to the memory aspect of sexual abuse.
But in a confidential questionnaire that was administered to prospective jurors before the trial, juror 50 had ticked a box answering “no” when asked if he had ever been the victim of sexual harassment, sexual abuse or abuse. sexual assault.
Lawyers for Ms Maxwell, in a brief requesting a new trial, said Juror No 50 ‘did not answer honestly perhaps the most important question posed to prospective jurors about their personal experiences – a question that directly related to the main allegations against Ms. Maxwell: whether they were victims of sexual assault or abuse.
“If Juror 50 had been telling the truth,” the attorneys wrote, “he would have been disqualified and expelled for cause.”
The defense and prosecution can use questionnaire responses to determine whether to exclude potential jurors on grounds such as bias.
The government, in opposing Ms Maxwell’s request, wrote that a defendant who seeks a new trial based on the statements of a juror during the jury selection process “faces a heavy burden of establish both that the juror deliberately lied and that the juror would otherwise have been struck for cause.
“On the current record, the accused is no closer to establishing that the extraordinary remedy of a new trial is justified,” the government said.
The government argued for a limited hearing to determine whether the juror deliberately lied on the questionnaire about being sexually abused and, if so, whether the judge “would have punched juror 50 for a motive valid if he had answered this question accurately, that is, on the basis of a finding that he could not be fair and impartial.”
Judges, in attempting to assess the impact of disclosures in the jury room, cannot question jurors about what happened during their deliberations, but they are allowed to review juror statements made during the process Selection.
Judge Nathan, in an opinion last week, wrote that after the trial, “Juror 50 made several direct and unambiguous statements to multiple media outlets about his own experience that do not pertain to the jury’s deliberations and that cast doubt on the accuracy of his answers”. during the selection of the jury.
The juror’s statements were “clear, strong, substantial and irrefutable evidence” that an impropriety had occurred – “namely, a misrepresentation in jury selection”, the judge wrote.
“To be clear,” Judge Nathan added, “the potential impropriety is not that someone with a history of sexual abuse could have served on the jury.”
“Rather,” she said, “it was the potential failure to answer questions honestly during the jury selection process that requested this important information so that any potential bias could be explored. “
Judge Nathan ordered juror 50 to appear in court next Tuesday and answer their questions under oath. Lawyers for Ms Maxwell and the government have been allowed to submit proposed questions in advance.
Mr. Spodek, the juror’s attorney, and Nicholas Biase, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, each declined to comment.