Dozens of potential jurors have been excused from serving in the rape trial of Harvey Weinstein, with the former movie producer’s lawyers accusing the judge presiding over the trial of bias.
In all, 90 of the 120 potential jurors summoned to state court in Manhattan on the second day of jury selection have been dismissed, most after saying they could not be impartial.
Weinstein, 67, has pleaded not guilty to charges of assaulting two women in New York and faces life in prison if convicted on the most serious charge, predatory sexual assault.
His trial began on Monday and could last as long as two months.
“I read every article and it’s gonna be very hard for someone who’s been assaulted multiple times,” one female potential juror said on Wednesday, explaining why she could not be impartial.
“I was assaulted in my past, so I don’t think I can be a fair juror,” another woman said.
A third woman said she had “a very close friend who had an encounter with the defendant”.
Many other jurors simply said they could not be fair.
The 30 potential jurors who were not dismissed are expected to return on January 16 for the next phase of jury selection.
Also on Wednesday, one of Weinstein’s lawyers, Arthur Aidala, filed a motion asking Judge James Burke to recuse himself, saying he had made “prejudicial and inflammatory comments” toward Weinstein.
BREAKING: #HarveyWeinstein‘s team files motion seeking judge’s recusal. They say the judge the Court has “animus” toward the defendant and cite the judge asking Weinstein if he wanted to spend his life in jail for using a cell phone. @jessecordweber pic.twitter.com/73052la7mE
— Law & Crime Network (@LawCrimeNetwork) January 8, 2020
Judge Burke on Tuesday threatened to revoke Weinstein’s bail after catching him using his phone in court, asking him, “Is this really the way you want to end up in jail for the rest of your life, by texting and violating a court order?”
Mr Aidala said the question suggested Judge Burke had already decided Weinstein was guilty and should be sentenced to life. Burke has not ruled on the motion.
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.
On Monday, Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced new sexual assault charges against Weinstein.