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D.A. Accuses Weinstein Defense of Excluding White Female Jurors

Weinstein Trial jury
Peter Foley/Shutterstock

A prosecutor accused Harvey Weinstein’s defense team on Thursday of systematically excluding young white women from the jury.

Seven jurors have been selected so far, but none of them are white women.

On Thursday afternoon, the defense eliminated at least seven white women from two panels of prospective jurors. Joan Illuzzi, the lead prosecutor, made a formal complaint to Justice James Burke after a defense attorney asked to excuse a woman who said she had friends who were sexually assaulted in college.

“He has eliminated every single young, white female from both panels,” Illuzzi said.

Donna Rotunno, Weinstein’s lead defense lawyer, said the defense excluded one juror because she was writing a book about “assumptions about women in the workplace.”

“This is not some conspiracy against the state,” Rotunno said.

Burke denied the prosecutors’ objections, and jury selection continued with a third panel.

So far, four men and three women have been picked to serve. Three of the men are white, and one is African American. Two of the women are African American, and one is African American and Latino.

Once the trial gets underway, six women are expected to testify about Weinstein’s alleged sexual assault, and their credibility will be the central issue for jurors to decide.

Earlier on Thursday, Burke advised the prospective jurors that the case is “not a referendum on the #MeToo movement.” He also admonished one prospective juror for tweeting about the case, and ordered him to return to court on March 10 to face a contempt citation.

Also on Thursday, a state appeals court denied a defense request to stay the case pending the outcome of a motion to transfer the case to Albany or Suffolk County. The same appellate court denied a similar request last fall.