By TOM HAYS
NEW YORK (AP) — A second day of jury selection in Harvey Weinstein’s rape trial wrapped up Wednesday with 30 people invited back next week for additional questioning. In all, 66 prospective jurors have advanced to the next stage in what is expected to be a lengthy selection process.
During that process, prospective jurors are given questionnaires asking, among other things, if they could ignore media coverage and decide the case based only on evidence heard in court. About 120 prospective jurors are being summoned to court each day.
As Wednesday’s group was assembling, Weinstein’s lawyers took aim at one of the disgrace movie mogul’s chief critics, trying to get prominent attorney Gloria Allred barred from the courtroom for the trial.
Allred represents one of the accusers in the criminal case, Mimi Haleyi, and two other women who are expected to testify, including actress Annabella Sciorra.
Weinstein’s lawyers argued Allred shouldn’t be allowed to watch trial testimony because they’re considering calling her as a witness, but Judge James Burke rejected the request, saying there was too much uncertainty over whether she’d take the stand to remove her.
Allred later accused the defense of trying to interfere with her ability to represent the women and said having her testify might not do them much good. She told reporters outside the courthouse that if called as a witness, she couldn’t be compelled to reveal any confidential communications with clients.
Weinstein is charged in New York with raping a woman in a hotel room in 2013 and sexually assaulting Haleyi in 2006. If convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison.
In a newly announced Los Angeles case, which will be tried later, Weinstein is accused of raping one woman and sexually assaulting a second on back-to-back nights in 2013. Weinstein has not entered a plea in that case.
The 67-year-old former studio boss behind such Oscar winners as “Pulp Fiction” and “Shakespeare in Love” has said any sexual activity was consensual.
Weinstein’s lawyers unsuccessfully tried to delay jury selection Tuesday in light of the Los Angeles case, asking for a “cooling-off period” to allow the publicity to subside. Judge James Burke expressed confidence that the jurors would know that Weinstein is presumed innocent until proven guilty, and he pressed on.
Jury selection got off to a rough start, with the judge threatening to jail Weinstein for violating court rules by texting in the courtroom.
“Is this really the way you want to end up in jail … by texting and violating a court order?” Burke asked, cutting off Weinstein off before he could respond.
During Tuesday’s court session, potential jurors were introduced as a group to Weinstein and were read a list of names that could come up at trial, including actresses Salma Hayek, Charlize Theron and Rosie Perez.
By the end of the day, just 36 potential jurors out of an initial 120 remained. New pools of prospective jurors will be summoned to court each morning in the coming days. A second round of jury selection will take place next week, when potential jurors who survived a first round of cuts come back to be questioned further.
Jurors were also told the trial will last about six weeks, once testimony begins.
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