The judge in Ghislaine Maxwell’s trial told jurors it was OK to draw on their personal experiences, as the Jeffrey Epstein associate’s conviction is under scrutiny

Alison Nathan Ghislaine Maxwell
Judge Alison J. Nathan, right, and Ghislaine Maxwell, left, are seen in a courtroom sketch. Jane Rosenberg/Reuters
  • Ghislaine Maxwell requested a new trial after jurors spoke to the media. 
  • Two jurors have said they shared their experience with sexual abuse during deliberations, and that it may have swayed other jurors to convict. 
  • Judge Alison Nathan had instructed jurors that they could use their own experiences to weigh testimony.

The judge presiding over Ghislaine Maxwell’s case told jurors to listen to the opinions of fellow jurors and to draw upon their experiences in deciding whether to convict Jeffrey Epstein’s ex-girlfriend on sex-trafficking charges.

The jury ultimately found Maxwell guilty on five of the six charges against her, a verdict that has come under scrutiny since two jurors revealed themselves to be sexual abuse survivors.

Insider’s Kelsey Vlamis previously spoke to legal experts who said that Maxwell’s case could be retried if the the two jurors who spoke to the media are discovered to have lied on a pre-trial questionnaire that asked whether they, or someone they knew, had experienced sexual abuse. 

The first juror to speak out, using only his first and middle name, Scotty David, told The Independent and Reuters that his experience as a survivor of sexual abuse led him to believe the accusers who testified at the trial, despite some gaps in their recollections. David said the rest of the jury went dead silent when he shared this experience with them during deliberations. A second, anonymous juror told The New York Times that they had been sexually abused as a child and also discussed this with the rest of the jury, which they believed had influenced the deliberations. 

When US District Judge Alison Nathan instructed the jury to decide the case, she made it clear that it was OK to bring such personal experiences into the jury deliberation room.

Nathan said there’s “no magic formula by which you can evaluate testimony,” and that jurors should use “common sense, judgment, and experience” to determine whether they believed the witnesses brought to testify at the trial. 

“As you deliberate, please listen to the opinions of your fellow jurors and ask for an opportunity to express your own views. Every juror should be heard, no one juror should hold center stage in the jury room, and no one juror should control or monopolize the deliberations,” Nathan told the jury before they broke for deliberations on December 20. 

These instructions to jurors were standard, according to retired federal judge Stephen T. Brown, who now teaches a course on jury selection at Florida State University College of Law. 

Brown told Insider on Monday that any grounds for mistrial in Maxwell’s case will focus on whether the two jurors who spoke to the media lied on their juror questionnaire.

He said jurors are not necessarily encouraged to focus on their personal experiences when deciding a case, but it’s accepted that jurors “come with baggage.” What is at stake, Brown said, is whether the defense and the prosecution both had the opportunity to learn about the jurors’ personal experiences with sexual abuse and then question them about whether that experience would impact their ability to be impartial.

US District Court Judge Alison J. Nathan
US District Court Judge Alison J. Nathan is seen in an undated photo. US District Court for the Southern District of New York/Handout via REUTERS

“There is no way on Earth we can force people to abandon their baggage,” Brown said. “It is the job of the trial lawyer to find out what that baggage is and to decide if it matters or not.”Answers to the juror questionnaires remain under seal, and the jurors’ names are not public. But a transcript of Nathan questioning one of the jurors during the selection process raises questions about how the juror filled out the questionnaire. 

David, who is identified in court documents as Juror #50, was not asked any questions about prior sexual abuse, the transcript shows. This suggests that he may have answered “no” on the questionnaire when asked whether he or anyone close to him had been the victim of sexual abuse, as the transcript shows Nathan asked follow-up questions in interviews with jurors who answered “yes” to the same question.