Saturday 25 January 2020

Weinstein judge will not step aside as jury selection resumes

Judge James Burke had threatened to jail Harvey Weinstein for ignoring a court order barring texting in the courtroom.

Harvey Weinstein arrives at a Manhattan courthouse for jury selection in his sexual assault trial in New York (Mark Lennihan/AP)
Harvey Weinstein arrives at a Manhattan courthouse for jury selection in his sexual assault trial in New York (Mark Lennihan/AP)

By Tom Hays, Associated Press

The judge in Harvey Weinstein’s rape trial has declined the defence’s request that he step aside as jury selection dipped into a third day.

Judge James Burke announced his decision on Thursday, a day after Weinstein’s lawyers sent him a letter asking that he remove himself from the case.

They objected to comments Judge Burke made when he threatened to jail Weinstein for ignoring a court order barring texting in the New York courtroom.

Weinstein’s lawyers condemned the judge’s comments as “prejudicial and inflammatory”, and raised questions about his impartiality.

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Harvey Weinstein faces a trial in New York (Mark Lennihan/AP)

Judge Burke said on Thursday there was nothing improper about “scolding a recalcitrant defendant” over violating an order to use his mobile phone in court.

“I never meant that I was going to put your client in jail for life,” he told defence lawyers.

Judges seldom step aside from cases over such requests, but Weinstein’s lawyers could also be making a play to make an issue of Judge Burke’s comments and rulings for a possible appeal.

The defence had further argued that Judge Burke failed to adequately safeguard Weinstein’s right to a fair and impartial jury, in part by rejecting a request to halt jury selection for a “cooling off” period after prosecutors in Los Angeles filed new sex crimes charges against him on Monday.

“There is no time like the present,” Judge Burke said on Thursday.

“All sides are ready.”

Weinstein is charged in New York with raping a woman in a Manhattan hotel room in 2013 and sexually assaulting another woman in 2006.

If convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison.

The 67-year-old ex-studio boss has pleaded not guilty and maintains that any sexual activity was consensual.

PA Media

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