Lawyers for Ghislaine Maxwell fought for the right to ask potential jurors about any history of sexual abuse or assault during the selection process because they viewed any such personal experiences as presenting, ‘significant potential’ for bias against their client, DailyMail.com can reveal.
Maxwell’s conviction on five out of six counts of sex trafficking has been thrown into disarray since two jurors have publicly revealed themselves to be victims of sexual abuse or assault.
The first to step forward was Scotty David who revealed to DailyMail.com that he could not remember being asked about his own sexual history but vaguely recalled a question on the potential juror questionnaire concerning friends or family.
Now, court filings obtained by DailyMail.com show that the ex-socialite’s defense team mounted a vigorous effort to ask two such questions in a bid to weed out anyone ‘who cannot be a fair juror,’ and that they did so in the face of strenuous government objections.
Court filings obtained by DailyMail.com show that Ghislaine Maxwell’s defense team mounted a vigorous effort to ask two questions about sexual abuse in a bid to weed out anyone ‘who cannot be a fair juror
Prosecutors objected to these questions on the grounds that they were ‘inappropriate, argumentative, confusing and excessively detailed.’ Maxwell’s lawyers kicked back by stating, ‘Juror’s personal experiences (directly or indirectly through family members and close friends) with sexual misconduct has significant potential to bias their opinions towards Ms. Maxwell based on the allegations and evidence in this case’
A draft of the proposed jury questionnaire was filed along with both the government and defense teams’ comments in October last year.
Then, Maxwell’s team proposed two questions. The first was, ‘Whether reported or not, have you, any family member of anyone close to you, including a child/minor, ever been the victim of any form of sexual abuse? (This includes actual or attempted sexual assault or other unwanted sexual advance, including by a stranger, acquaintance, supervisor, teacher, or family member).
The first juror to step forward was Scotty David who revealed to DailyMail.com that he could not remember being asked about his own sexual history
The second question read, ‘Whether reported or not, have you, or anyone close to you, including a child/minor, ever felt in danger of being sexually assaulted by another person, including a stranger, acquaintance, supervisor, teacher, or family member?’
Both questions had boxes to tick either, ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ with a request for further explanation if the answer was, ‘Yes.’
Prosecutors objected to these questions on the grounds that they were ‘inappropriate, argumentative, confusing and excessively detailed.’
Maxwell’s lawyers kicked back by stating, ‘Juror’s personal experiences (directly or indirectly through family members and close friends) with sexual misconduct has significant potential to bias their opinions towards Ms. Maxwell based on the allegations and evidence in this case.’
They wrote, ‘The privacy of a questionnaire affords an opportunity to share these biases confidentially and candidly and best allows the parties to identify who cannot be a fair juror in this case.’
They noted that it also, ‘allows the Court to decide whether an individual questioning of that juror is appropriate, based on the sensitive nature of the content of the questions.’
In fact, an addendum to the questionnaire filed by both the defense and prosecution, states, ‘The Court is requested to pursue more detailed questioning if a particular juror’s answers reveals that further inquiry is appropriate.’
Ultimately the final document, which totaled 50 questions, incorporated a single question which was a streamlined version of both defense suggestions.
Scotty’s admission has thrown Maxwell’s conviction into chaos as her defense team is calling for a new trial
Maxwell is facing 65 years in prison after being found guilty on five of six counts, including sex trafficking
The final wording read, ‘Have you or a friend or family member ever been the victim of sexual harassment, sexual abuse, or sexual assault? (This includes actual or attempted sexual assault or other unwanted sexual advances, including by a stranger, acquaintance, supervisor, teacher, or family member).’
There were three boxes by way of answer: Yes (self), Yes (friend or family member) and No.
This is the question that juror Scotty David admitted to DailyMail.com that he cannot remember being asked.
Maxwell’s lawyers have insisted that no investigation is necessary, calling instead for a new trial and claiming that the statements that both jurors have now made publicly across multiple news outlets are ‘incontrovertible grounds’ for a mistrial
In fact, when asked directly if he had shared information regarding his history of sexual abuse on the juror questionnaire, he said, ‘No. They don’t ask your sexual abuse history. They didn’t ask that in the questionnaire.’
When told that they did, David colored up and said that he didn’t remember the question being there but ‘definitely’ remembered a question asking about ‘a friend or family member being sexually abused.’
He insisted that he had been honest on all of his questions, but confessed to other outlets that he ‘flew threw’ the lengthy document.
David made his admissions on the back of the revelation that he was a victim of sexual abuse and that he shared his story with jurors in a way that helped persuade uncertain jurors of the victims’ credibility and Maxwell’s guilt.
He went onto reveal that a second juror was also moved to share their own experience of sexual abuse or assault, a fact that has since been verified publicly by the second juror who chose to remain anonymous.
Within hours of the revelations Maxwell’s conviction hung in the balance.
First, the government called for an investigation into the jurors’ public comments.
Next, Maxwell’s team declared an investigation ‘premature’ and unnecessary and claimed that the jurors’ undisputed statements were ‘incontrovertible grounds’ for a mistrial.
Maxwell’s lawyers have stated that it makes no difference whether either juror acted deliberately or in an honest mistake if they failed to reveal their sexual abuse or assault history during the selection process.
It is a view backed by many legal experts.
David made his admissions on the back of the revelation that he was a victim of sexual abuse and that he shared his story with jurors in a way that helped persuade uncertain jurors of the victims’ credibility and Maxwell’s guilt
New York criminal defense lawyer Mark Bederow told DailyMail.com, ‘If the juror misled the court and parties by failing to disclose that he was a victim of sexual abuse, there are serious issues.’
He explained, ‘There is every reason to believe that this verdict could be in peril and Maxwell will be awarded a new trial.
‘The juror may also have a legal problem if the evidence establishes that he deliberately concealed his prior experience from the court and parties during voir dire.’
David has already told DailyMail.com that the matter was not raised in his voir dire – the individual questioning portion of the selection process – which he described as perfunctory and lasting barely 30 seconds.
He has remained silent and lawyered up in the disastrous fall-out of his and his fellow jurors’ admissions.
Judge Alison Nathan has said that she will hear briefings from all parties and experts say she may well call upon jurors to be interviewed. No date has been set for any hearing.
FREE AT LAST? GETTING BAIL FOR MAXWELL IS POSSIBLE
With the declaration of a mistrial the clock would effectively be wound back to one day before this trial started.
Because Maxwell was not out on bail, she would not automatically walk free, but one legal expert told DailyMail.com that it was ‘inconceivable’ that her attorneys would not swiftly attempt to renew their bid for bail.
Because a mistrial under these circumstances would not have been declared for ‘substantive’ reasons – there was no evidence admitted that should not have been, nor evidence withheld by the government, for example – there is nothing in the proceedings that would change her lawyer’s previously unsuccessful bond arguments.
However, the situation itself would hand Maxwell’s lawyers a new and potentially persuasive reason to press for bail.
According to one expert, ‘You have a constitutional right to a speedy trial and her lawyers could now argue that because of all this she essentially has not got that.
‘The prosecution would absolutely be brought in again because the mistrial would not have been called for a substantive reason, but for what was basically a screw up. That means they will have to go through the whole process again.
‘If I were her lawyer, I would certainly be making the argument that it is inhumane to make her sit in jail through all that, after all this time, and all over again.
‘The judge just might be sympathetic to that.’
Source: Daily Mail UK