A judge on Monday denied a defense request to postpone Harvey Weinstein’s trial in Los Angeles in order to avoid publicity for “She Said,” a feature film about the exposure of sex abuse allegations against him.
Weinstein is set to go on trial on 11 counts of rape and sexual assault on Oct. 10, and the case is expected to last at least through the end of November.
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“She Said,” a film based on the book by New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, is due out from Universal on Nov. 18. The film is also expected to have its world premiere at the New York Film Festival, which runs from Sept. 30 to Oct. 16.
Defense attorney Mark Werksman argued that jurors are likely to see billboards, social media and other publicity for the film, which would “dramatically prejudice the ability to get a fair trial.” He also noted the involvement of Brad Pitt, who is a producer on the film.
“This is guaranteed to be a big deal in the public consciousness,” Werksman said.
But Paul Thompson, the lead prosecutor, argued that delaying the trial might carry its own risks. He noted that the film is likely to be in the conversation during awards season next February and March — which would mean a fresh round of publicity. And at that point, jurors might have already seen the film.
“I’m not continuing the trial,” said Judge Lisa B. Lench. “We’ll just have to deal with it.”
Werksman also noted that the New York Court of Appeals — the highest court in that state — agreed last week to hear Weinstein’s appeal of his New York conviction. Weinstein is serving a 23-year sentence after being found guilty in February 2020 of rape and sexual assault.
Werksman argued that the Los Angeles trial should be delayed until the Court of Appeals has decided the New York case. If Weinstein’s conviction is overturned, that could impact the Los Angeles trial.
Jurors in L.A. will be informed of one of the guilty verdicts, pertaining to Miriam Haley. Werksman warned if that conviction is overturned, that could become an appellate issue in Los Angeles.
Lench advised the prosecution to consider whether it wants to include Haley in the L.A. trial, and said she would hold off on ruling about whether to exclude that information.
Jury selection in the L.A. trial is expected to last two weeks, and opening statements are set for Oct. 24. Weinstein’s attorneys also expressed concern that he is not getting adequate dental care in jail, and needs to have missing teeth replaced so that he does not look “indigent” during the trial.
The judge said she would talk to the jail officials about it, but said she could not make any promises.
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