Harvey Weinstein’s defense team filed a formal request for a mistrial on Monday, arguing that numerous judicial errors have hopelessly prejudiced the jury.
The motion was the third request for a mistrial since the proceedings got underway earlier this month. In the motion, defense lawyer Damon Cheronis argued that Annabella Sciorra had given hearsay testimony last week, and argued that the court should not have allowed Lance Maerov, a former Weinstein Company board member, to testify about his hostile relationship with the producer.
Sciorra testified that she had told journalists about Weinstein’s alleged rape. Victims in sexual assault cases are allowed to give “prompt outcry” testimony in order to buttress their claims. But Cheronis argued that talking to a journalist, more than 20 years later, does not qualify as “prompt.” Cheronis also objected to the testimony of Rosie Perez, who said that Sciorra had told her about the attack soon after it happened.
Maerov was the first witness in the case. He told jurors that Weinstein had threatened to sue him. Cheronis argued that the testimony should not have been allowed because it was “improper character or propensity evidence,” which shed no light on whether he committed the rapes and sexual assaults that he is accused of.
The defense also took exception to the prosecution’s expert witness, Barbara Ziv, who gave testimony about why rape victims sometimes try to stay on friendly terms with their rapist, and why they might not report the incident. The defense argued that Ziv had exceeded her expertise, and gave improper testimony commenting on the accusers’ allegations.
The defense also asked Justice James Burke on Monday to prevent Weinstein’s accusers from discussing abuse they suffered as children, saying it’s irrelevant to the charges against him.
In her opening statement last week, Assistant District Attorney Meghan Hast said that both of the primary witnesses against Weinstein suffered from childhood abuse. Weinstein’s defense argued that such testimony would be prejudicial to Weinstein, and would serve “only to stir sympathy in the minds of the jury for the complaining witnesses.”
On Monday, the prosecution called Miriam Haley, who alleges that Weinstein sexually assaulted her at his apartment in 2006. Haley was allowed to testify that she and her mother both suffered domestic abuse at the hands of her stepfather.
The jury is also expected to hear later on from Jessica Mann, who alleges that Weinstein violently raped her. Hast said in her opening statement that Mann also suffered from childhood abuse. She said that Mann grew up in an Evangelical community, and had a tough, abusive childhood before leaving home at the age of 16. The defense argued that allowing the women to talk about their childhoods would lead the jury to decide the case “based on emotion rather than logic.”
The defense earlier made an oral motion for a mistrial, after Burke denied a defense request to excuse a juror who had written a novel about predatory older men. The defense also asked for a mistrial on the opening date of trial, complaining that Hast had prejudiced the jury by showing a photo of Weinstein with Bill Clinton. Both motions were denied, but the defense again appears to be creating a voluminous record in case of appeal.