NEW YORK (Reuters) – Dozens of potential jurors filed into a Manhattan courtroom on Wednesday morning for former Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s rape trial, as the process of selecting impartial New Yorkers to decide his fate entered its second day.
Weinstein, 67, has pleaded not guilty to charges of assaulting two women in New York. He faces life in prison if convicted on the most serious charge, predatory sexual assault.
Before the jury pool arrived, one of Weinstein’s lawyers, revealed that the defense might call attorney Gloria Allred as a witness. Allred, a well-known advocate for sexual assault victims, represents some of the women expected to testify against Weinstein.
The lawyer, Damon Cheronis, asked that Allred be barred from the courtroom during the trial, a request Justice James Burke denied.
Reached by email, Allred said she would make a public statement later in the day.
Since 2017, more than 80 women, including many famous actresses, have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct dating back decades.
The Weinstein allegations helped fuel the #MeToo movement which encouraged women to go public with misconduct allegations against powerful men.
Weinstein has denied the allegations, saying any sexual encounters he had were consensual.
The former film producer made his mark with low-budget, critically acclaimed films such as “The English Patient” and “Shakespeare in Love.”
Burke has denied requests by Weinstein’s legal team to move the trial out of the media glare of Manhattan or to delay the start given the challenges of finding impartial jurors.
On Monday, Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced charges against Weinstein of sexual assault of two unidentified women in 2013.
Burke said the jury would be instructed that the charges in California are not evidence of guilt.
One-hundred twenty potential jurors were screened on Tuesday, about 40 of whom were excused after saying they could not be impartial in the case. Other jurors were excused after speaking privately with the judge and lawyers.
Just 36 of the 120 were given written questionnaires and ordered to return on Jan. 16 for the final phase of jury selection.
Prosecutors need 12 jurors to back a conviction, while Weinstein needs just one holdout for a hung jury.
The trial is expected to last six weeks.
Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York and Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; Editing by Noeleen Walder, Grant McCool and Jonathan Oatis