- Harvey Weinstein was convicted Monday of sexual assault and rape, and his attorneys vowed to immediately appeal the verdict.
- One legal expert told Insider a basis for the appeal could be the confusing verdict sheet jurors were given for their deliberations.
- The sheet outlined the five felony counts Weinstein faced but provided a complicated series of instructions on how the jurors should proceed.
- A criminal-defence lawyer Insider consulted on the document said the form was “confusing to me as an attorney, let alone a jury.”
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
After nearly a week of deliberations, a New York City jury found the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein guilty on Monday of first-degree criminal sexual act and third-degree rape.
Weinstein could now face up to 29 years in prison. He was acquitted of the two most serious charges he faced, which could have landed him with a life sentence.
His defence attorneys vowed to immediately appeal the convictions, telling Insider in a statement there were “issues in this trial that were extremely troubling, and they prejudiced Mr. Weinstein’s ability to have his case fairly judged.”
One California-based criminal-defence attorney, who was not involved in the trial, told Insider that Weinstein’s defence team might well have good cause to appeal based on the confusing verdict sheet jurors were given for their deliberations.
The sheet outlines each of the five felony counts Weinstein faced and which ones pertained to which accusers. The three accusers listed in the document were Mimi Haleyi, who accused Weinstein of forcing oral sex on her in 2006; Jessica Mann, who accused Weinstein of raping her in 2013; and Annabella Sciorra, who accused Weinstein of raping her in the winter of 1993 or 1994.
But the tricky part was the inclusion of Sciorra, whose allegations were past the statute of limitations and could not be charged by themselves.
Instead, prosecutors used Sciorra’s allegations as a basis for two charges of predatory sexual assault. According to New York’s penal code, charges of predatory sexual assault sometimes require the defendant to have committed sex crimes against more than one person.
Therefore, prosecutors charged Weinstein with one count of predatory sexual assault based on a combination of Sciorra’s and Haleyi’s allegations and a second count of predatory sexual assault based on a combination of Sciorra’s and Mann’s allegations.
The verdict sheet instructed jurors to navigate a labyrinth of charges
The verdict sheet jurors were given, embedded below, instructed the jurors to consider the two charges of predatory sexual assault before moving on to the other separate charges based on Haleyi and Mann’s allegations.
By the logic of the verdict sheet, jurors had to believe both Sciorra and Haleyi to convict Weinstein of the first count of predatory sexual assault, and they would have had to believe both Sciorra and Mann to convict him of the second predatory sexual assault count.
The attorney Insider consulted on the document, Lara Yeretsian, said the form was “confusing to me as an attorney, let alone a jury.”
She continued: “The defence should raise that on appeal because the jury may have been confused into thinking that they had to find him guilty on the two charges they found him guilty on in order to acquit him of the more serious charges.”
Journalists covering the trial also struggled initially to understand the complex document, drawing up flowcharts to understand the charges.
The jury itself may have found the document perplexing. In a note to the judge on Friday, jurors asked whether they could be hung on one or both counts of predatory sexual assault if they had reached a unanimous decision on the other charges.
The note set off a flurry of speculation over the weekend – according to the document, the jurors could not be deadlocked on the two most serious charges unless they had already deemed Weinstein guilty of the other, lesser charges.
Indeed, on Monday, the jury returned a verdict that convicted Weinstein based on Haleyi’s and Mann’s separate allegations but acquitted Weinstein of the charges that involved Sciorra.
He was found guilty of one count of third-degree rape and one count of a criminal sexual act.
Weinstein was remanded to the Rikers Island jail complex shortly after the conviction on Monday, and his sentencing has been scheduled for March 11. His attorneys said they would seek to have him released on bail pending his appeal.
- Read more:
- Harvey Weinstein has been found guilty of rape and criminal sexual act in the #MeToo era’s highest-stakes case yet
- Weinstein’s accusers say their lives have irreversibly changed since they went public with their allegations – and not always for the better
- Harvey Weinstein’s attorneys say they will appeal his rape and sexual assault convictions ‘as soon as possible’
- Harvey Weinstein escaped the most serious charges against him. Legal experts say jurors may have been confused about one of the case’s star witnesses.
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