A note from the jury in the Harvey Weinstein trial on Friday afternoon set the media and legal worlds abuzz with speculation about the verdict.
The note suggested that the jurors were deadlocked on the two most serious charges — predatory sexual assault — but had reached a unanimous consensus on three other counts, of rape and criminal sexual acts.
“We the jury request to understand if we can be hung on 1 and/or 3 and unanimous on the other charges,” they wrote.
The note did not say whether they were unanimous for conviction or acquittal on the three other charges. But as a logical matter, there would be no reason to debate the more serious charges if they had agreed that Weinstein is innocent of all of the lesser charges. In other words, if they are in fact “unanimous on the other charges,” then they must have agreed that he is guilty of at least one of them.
In note to judge Weinstein jury says as of now it is hung on predatory sexual assault charges and unanimous on other two. They wouldn’t get to predatory sex assault charge without finding him guilty of one of the other charges. Suggesting he’s on verge of a conviction.
— megan twohey (@mega2e) February 21, 2020
But legal experts cautioned against using that inference to try to predict the verdict.
“Juries are notoriously illogical,” said Ken White, a criminal defense attorney who blogs at Popehat.com. “The way they approach something will make no sense to someone who’s been immersed in the case. Sometimes they come up with inconsistent verdicts… Reading jury notes is like reading tea leaves. It’s not a science.”
The note posed a hypothetical question, and it’s not clear how many jurors signed on to it. It is possible, for instance, that they are not unanimous on the lesser charges, but that some of them think it would be helpful to know what would happen if they were.
“They used a lot of ‘ifs’ and ‘ands’ and ‘ors’ when they wrote that note,” said Julie Rendelman, a defense attorney who has been closely following the case.
That said, she added, “If I’m Harvey Weinstein, I am completely devastated right now.”
If convicted on either of two lesser charges — first-degree rape or criminal sexual acts — Weinstein would face five to 25 years in prison.
“If I were the prosecution, I would be cautiously optimistic,” White said. “If I were the defense, I would be cautiously pessimistic.”
Justice James Burke instructed the jurors to return on Monday morning to keep deliberating.