The producer’s trial has left from street protests to attacks to discredit witnesses or the use of a dress as evidence.
The Harvey Weinstein rape trial has offered tension and surprising moments as the film producer, fallen out of favor, faced the accusations of three women who claimed to have been sexually assaulted. Weinstein faced five charges. Two of them for rape, one for forcing someone to perform oral sex and two for premeditated and systematized sexual assault. On Monday, the jury has ruled that he is guilty of a first-degree sexual offense for forcing Miriam Haley, who was a production assistant for the Project Runway series, to practice oral sex in 2006. (Gateway to fame, in Spanish) and for violation in third grade. The same jury has acquitted him of the most serious charges, a violation in the first degree and predatory sexual conduct.
The trial, which has been subject to intense media coverage, has had a varied staff of characters. Weinstein himself came to the sights every day leaning on a walker with which he recovers from a car accident suffered last summer. Chicago law firm Donna Rotuno, specializing in cases of men accused of sexual abuse, has been responsible for directing her defense. The prosecutor has been Joan Illuzzi-Orbon, responsible for the New York district and with a reputation for dura.
These are some of the most relevant moments that have marked the trial that lit the fuse of the ‘Me Too’ movement:
Survivors raise their voice against Weinstein
The start of the trial was marked by two protests that took place in the first week of the process. On the first day, a group of about two dozen women silently held signs with slogans such as “Justice for Survivors” and stared at Weinstein as he entered the courthouse. Shortly after his arrival, the group, which calls itself “Silence Breakers”, offered a press conference on the sidewalk to celebrate the oral hearing of the cause began.
A few days later, another group of women represented outside the court the performance against the culture of rape devised in Chile ‘A rapist in your path’. “The patriarchy is a judge who judges us for being born and our punishment is the violence we have seen,” they sang in English and Spanish. Their voices could be heard from inside the room. Weinstein’s lawyers argued that the protest could influence jurors. The judge responded that it was not heard clearly and that it would not be the only protest to be heard during the trial.
A model that could be part of the jury
The Gigi Hadid model was one of the hundreds of possible jurors who were called to trial during the jury selection period. When asked if he knew the defendant, he said they had met before. She also said she is friends with Salma Hayek, an actress who accused Weinstein of sexual abuse. Hadid is known to be friends with Cara Delevingne, who has also accused Weinstein of harassment.
When the judge asked Hadid if he could be impartial during the trial, he said: “I think I can still keep an open mind about the facts.” A survey was taken for prospective jurors but it was discarded when it came back a few days later. Weinstein’s defense team argued that Hadid’s appearance showed that Manhattan has too much “carnival atmosphere” to hold the trial in that place and asked to be held elsewhere, away from New York. The judge rejected the petition.
The judge threatens to revoke Weinstein’s bond for using his telephone in the courtroom
James Burke, the person in charge of the case, a judge known for the smoothness of his forms, rebuked Weinstein with all the firmness for using his phone during the initial moments of the hearing. “Is this how you want to end up in jail the rest of your days, for sending text messages skipping a court order?” Burke asked the producer
Burke told Arthur Aidala, one of Weinstein’s lawyers, that he would void the two million dollar bond if he saw the defendant again using his phone. Weinstein’s team would argue later that the judge showed some bias in saying that Weinstein would end up in jail for life, as that showed that the judge believed he would be convicted. Burke quickly denied that accusation. “What I wanted to do was scare him enough that he wouldn’t use his phone again.”
An actress reproduced the act of harassment before the jury
Annabella Sciorra, the highest-profile witness among the six women who testified, was the first to do so. And he reproduced the way Weinstein lifted her and grabbed her arms over her head when she abused her in the early 1990s. “She took my hands and put them over my head to keep them back,” he explained as he played what he explained by looking at the jury. “Then he got on me and raped me.”
While describing what happened, his voice broke and he had to dry his eyes with tissues on several occasions. Sciorra cried evidently when he told the jury that Weinstein told him just after ejaculating on his robe “I control my times perfectly.” After the incident, Sciorra said he became depressed and resorted to drinking or causing cuts in the skin to nullify the sensation of pain.
A witness breaks into tears on the stage during an interrogation
During the second day of interrogations, one of the main witnesses of the process burst into tears inconsolably as she tried to read a letter she wrote to her boyfriend in which she talked about her relationship with Weinstein. The judge suspended the session since the witness lacked comfort.
At that point, the jury had seen how the witness broke down several times while describing the relationship she had with Weinstein, whom she described as a “Jekyll and Hide” – someone with two faces, a lovely person who could make you feel good when he wanted it and sink if you didn’t bend to his desires.
The witness alleged that Weinstein raped her twice in 2013 and that they both maintained a complicated relationship that at times was mutually agreed upon. Weinstein’s defense argued that all sexual encounters held were voluntary as demonstrated, in his view, that the woman had maintained a relationship with him after the alleged abuse.
Weinstein photos were shown naked to the jury as evidence
The court showed several evidence to the jury that was not available for the entire courtroom. It is believed that they were photos of Weinstein naked because of the sketches made by cartoonists present during the trial. Before the jury could see the photos, the Weinstein defense tried to avoid that they could be used as evidence by arguing their irrelevance. But the prosecution’s criteria were imposed and the jurors passed the photos. Some only took a quick look before passing them to those next to them.
Two witnesses gave intimate details about Weinstein’s physical features. One of them, one of the main witnesses, said that Weinstein apparently has a large scar on his body. As if they had burned him. He also said that it seems he has no testicles. Another said that he had many scars and that “he did not see that there were balls in the bag” (in reference to the scrotum). During her final plea, Weinstein’s lawyer said showing the nude photos of Weinstein to the jury was an attempt to “embarrass him.”
The defense took out the dress one of the witnesses wore the night of the attack
During the interrogation of Laura Young, Damon Cheronis, one of Weinstein’s lawyers, put on a pair of gloves and held a white lace dress, the same that Young claimed to wear the night Weinstein abused her in 2013. Young argued I hadn’t touched the dress since then.
The witness described to the jury the way in which Weinstein caught her in the bathroom of a hotel room, lowered her dress, grabbed one of her breasts and masturbated in front of her saying “this is what all actresses do to achieve it”.
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