Saturday, January 8, 2022

Ghislaine Maxwell conviction in jeopardy

Ghislaine’s Maxwell’s sex-trafficking and conspiracy conviction, little more than a week old, may not be salvageable, legal experts said Thursday after two jurors publicly disclosed past sexual abuse that they might not have included on pretrial questionnaires, reported the Washington Post.

Attorneys for the former longtime paramour of disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein are preparing to seek a new trial on the grounds that Maxwell’s first was fundamentally unfair. A judge will consider the issue later this month.

Defense lawyers made the request Wednesday, based on news articles that quoted one juror saying he used his past to convince others on the jury to believe Maxwell’s accusers, despite some gaps and inconsistencies.

Photos included with some of the articles indicate the juror is a 35-year-old executive assistant in the finance sector who was referred to as Juror No. 50 during anonymous voir dire proceedings.

Maxwell, 60, was found guilty on Dec. 29, after four women testified that she groomed and recruited them as teenagers to give sexualized massages to Epstein, and in some cases groped them herself.

The disclosure that Juror No. 50 was abused as a child would not have automatically disqualified him from serving on Maxwell’s jury. But the defense would have almost certainly used one of its challenges to dismiss him, had he made it past the 30-page, 50-question survey to voir dire, an interview process in open court.

The answers to the questionnaires are sealed, and jurors’ names have not been made public. It is unclear whether Juror No. 50 revealed his history of abuse when asked on the questionnaire if he or a friend or relative had ever “been the victim of sexual harassment, sexual abuse, or sexual assault?” In the transcript of his voir dire, however, he is not asked about his answer to the sexual abuse question, suggesting a disclosure had not been made.

The sexual abuse and sexual assault question on the survey was considered vital to the process of picking a fair panel in a high-profile case that centered on the abuse of underage victims. At issue now is whether Juror No. 50 omitted his own history from the questionnaire despite written and verbal warnings that he was under oath and was instructed to tell the truth.

In the printed packets, jurors were warned — with capital letters and underlined notations — that they were sworn to provide truthful responses. The final page is a declaration requiring a signature to the fact that “under penalty of perjury” all of the above answers were truthful “to the best of my knowledge and belief.”

Former federal prosecutors watching the matter unfold have said U.S. District Judge Alison J. Nathan has tough questions to consider, including whether what has transpired has resulted in a “material prejudice” against Maxwell that can only be cured by a trial do-over.

“This juror has no idea what kind of a chaotic chain reaction he has unleashed,” said Jason P.W. Halperin, a former prosecutor in the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan, which handled the investigations of both Maxwell and Epstein prior to Epstein’s death by suicide while awaiting trial in August 2019.

After written motions are filed in the coming weeks and Nathan “very likely” holds a hearing on the matter, “there is now a very real possibility that there will have to be a new trial,” Halperin added.

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