Defense seeks new trial: “Among other things, the Juror told reporters that he disclosed to the other members of the jury during deliberations that he was a victim of sexual abuse and further described his memory of those events. According to the Juror, his disclosure influenced the deliberations and convinced other members of the jury to convict Ms. Maxwell.”
Ghislain Maxwell was convicted on 5 of 6 charges in her sex trafficking trial, related to her time as a consort to Jeffrey Epstein. She faced a long prison sentence that, at her age of 60, would be the equivalent of life in prison.
And then a bombshell dropped today. The NY Times reported that the prosecutors alerted the court to possible misconduct by two jurors:
Federal prosecutors on Wednesday asked the judge who oversaw Ghislaine Maxwell’s sex-trafficking trial to investigate the process by which one of the jurors was chosen, after he told news outlets he was a sexual abuse victim and had discussed his experience during deliberations.
The prosecutors’ request, in a letter filed with the court, raised the possibility of additional inquiry into how jurors who voted to convict Ms. Maxwell had been selected and the prospect of Ms. Maxwell’s lawyers moving to have a mistrial declared in the closely watched case.
Later on Wednesday, Ms. Maxwell’s lawyers indicated they planned to do just that, saying in two letters to the judge that their client would seek a new trial and that the judge “can and should order” one without holding a hearing, as the government had requested….
In another potential complication, a second juror described in an interview with The New York Times having been sexually abused as a child. This juror, who requested anonymity, said that they, too, had discussed the experience during deliberations and that the revelation had appeared to help shape the jury’s discussions.
The two jurors’ disclosures could be particularly problematic if they failed to note their experiences to the court during jury selection. All the potential jurors in the case were asked in a confidential questionnaire whether they or any relatives or friends had been the victim of sexual abuse or harassment.
I pulled the prosecutor and defense attorneys’ letters, and the court’s scheduling Order on it, from Pacer You can read the heavily redacted documents below, which I’ve excerpted below.
The Government has become aware that a juror has given several interviews to press outlets regarding his jury service in this case.1 While the Court instructed jurors that they were free to discuss their jury service with anyone of their choosing, some of the statements, as related in the media, merit attention by the Court. In particular, the juror has described being a victim of sexual abuse. Assuming the accuracy of the reporting, the juror asserted that he “flew through” the prospective juror questionnaire and does not recall being asked whether he had been a victim of sexual abuse, but stated that “he would have answered honestly.”2
Based on the foregoing, the Government believes the Court should conduct an inquny…. If the Court decides to schedule such a hearing, the Government respectfully suggests that the Court’s staff promptly contact the juror to notify him of the hearing and inquire whether he would like counsel to be appointed in connection with it.
[1 The Government is aware of at least three interviews at this point, which are available at the following links: (1) https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/maxwell-juror-accountabuse-b1986478.html; (2) https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10370193/Ghislaine-Maxwell-juror-says-evidence-convinced-panel-predator.html; and (3) https://www.reuters.com/world/us/some-ghislaine-maxwell-jurors-initially-doubted-accusersjuror-says-2022-01-05/.]
[2 See https://www.reuters.com/world/us/someaccusers- juror-sa s-2022-01-05/. [Remainder Redacted in Original]
I write in response to the government’s letter of this morning requesting a hearing to consider a Juror’s statements to various media sources that the Juror was a victim of sexual assault. Doc. 568. The government’s request for a hearing is premature because based on undisputed, publicly available information, the Court can and should order a new trial without any evidentiary hearing….
Respectfully, it is not the proper function of the Court to contact the Juror and suggest that he retain an attorney or to secure the appointment of an attorney on his behalf. There is no indication this Juror either needs a lawyer or is indigent and qualifies for court-appointed counsel. Moreover, any such action would undermine the search for the truth and thus potentially compromise Ms. Maxwell’s constitutional right to trial by an impartial jury.
Ms. Maxwell intends to request a new trial under Rule 33 because the “interest of justice so requires.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 33(a). Any submission will include all known undisputed remarks of the Juror, including recorded statements, the relevant questionnaire, and other non-controverted facts. It is clear to Ms. Maxwell that based on this record alone a new trial is required. If this Court disagrees, however, Ms. Maxwell requests that a hearing be scheduled sooner than one month from now. Ms. Maxwell also suggests that all the deliberating jurors will need to be examined, not to impeach the verdict, but to evaluate the Juror’s conduct.
We write concerning an issue of pressing importance. It has come to the attention of the defense that one of the twelve jurors in this case (the “Juror”) has been giving oral and videotaped interviews to various members of the press concerning the jury deliberations. These interviews have been publicly reported in several media outlets.1 Among other things, the Juror told reporters that he disclosed to the other members of the jury during deliberations that he was a victim of sexual abuse and further described his memory of those events. According to the Juror, his disclosure influenced the deliberations and convinced other members of the jury to convict Ms. Maxwell.
[1 See Lucia Osborne-Crowley, “‘They were all believable’: Maxwell juror says jury was convinced by accusers’ accounts of a pattern of abuse,” The Independent (Jan. 4, 2022); Laura Collins and Daniel Bates, “‘Ghislaine was a predator as guilty as Epstein’: Maxwell juror describes moment he ‘locked eyes’ with sex trafficker and reveals his own abuse ordeal,” Daily Mail (Jan. 5, 2022), available at https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10370193/Ghislaine-Maxwell-juror-says-evidence-convinced-panel-predator.html; Luc Cohen, “Some Ghislaine Maxwell jurors initially doubted accusers, juror says,” Reuters (Jan. 5, 2022).]
The Court is in receipt of the parties’ letters. Dkt. Nos. 568, 569, 570. The Court hereby sets the following briefing schedule for the Defense to move for a new trial in light of the issues raised in the parties’ letters:
• Defense motion: January 19, 2022
• Government response: February 2, 2022
• Defense reply: February 9, 2022
The parties’ briefing should address whether an inquiry of some kind is permitted and/or required, and, if so, the nature of such an inquiry. Although the Court reserves decision on whether an inquiry of any kind is warranted, the Court grants the Government’s request, Dkt. No. 568, to offer court-appointed counsel to the juror in issue. Subject to the juror’s right to decline court-appointed counsel, the Court will appoint the on-duty CJA counsel to represent the juror. If counsel for the juror wishes to be heard on the issue of the appropriateness of an inquiry, briefing by the juror’s counsel may be filed by January 26, 2022.
So this is pretty serious. We don’t know much about the first juror’s problem, but the second juror seems to have acknowledged using his own personal history of sexual abuse to convince other jurors to find Maxwell guilty. That’s obviously irrelevant; whether a juror was abused has nothing to do with whether Maxwell sex-trafficked for Epstein. Whether the juror lied on the jury questionnaire, however, may be the key fact for the court. Also, that the prosecution was the first to contact the court reflects the seriousness of it.
Juror concealment, of course, is a problem in many high profile cases. In the Derek Chauvin case, the court refused the defense request to conduct an examination of a juror who failed to disclose during jury selection his pro-BLM protest history including wearing an anti-Chauvin t-shirt. With Chauvin’s plea to federal charges, it seems that potential juror misconduct will never get a hearing.
The judge in the Maxwell case appears to be heading down a more proper path. Whether it results in the convictions being vacated remains to be seen, but at least Maxwell will get her day in court on possible juror misconduct, unlike Derek Chauvin.DONATE
Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.