Disgraced former Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein’s lawyers exclusively discussed in their first extended sit-down interview the details of their blueprint for appealing his sex crimes convictions on the grounds that jury selection was flawed.
Speaking with David Miranda, host of the Miranda Warnings podcast, attorneys Arthur Aidala and Barry Kamins give a behind-the-scenes look at their experiences defending Weinstein in a case that drew widespread international attention and sparked the #MeToo movement.
The interview marked the first time that the defense lawyers have provided such an in-depth commentary about the trial, which culminated in Weinstein’s sentencing to 23 years in prison in March.
“If you start off with jurors who are bent against you from the beginning, it doesn’t matter how good your evidence is in their mind,” Aidala said. “One issue that has been all over the news recently is that one of the jurors wrote a book having to do with very similar subject matters and that is going to be our lead issue on the appeal. There was a person on the jury who really shouldn’t have been on the jury.”
Aidala was referring to a juror on the case, Amanda Brainerd, who wrote a novel titled “Age of Consent” prior to the trial about “three young women in the 1980s, who negotiate fraught friendships, sexuality, class and predatory older men on the journey from innocence to independence.” The defense team believes the juror misrepresented herself in her jury questionnaire.
Both Aidala and Kamins decried the circus-like atmosphere surrounding the Weinstein case – especially during jury selection. Kamins noted the difficultly his partner had in picking jurors, who, while sitting in the courtroom, could hear the chants of protesters outside.
“The ventilation at 100 Centre St. is terrible so the window was open, and the jurors were hearing chants directed at Mr. Weinstein,” Kamins said. “That sort of atmosphere to try and pick fair and impartial jurors makes it much more difficult.”
Aidala unfavorably compares the Weinstein jury selection process to another high-profile case involving National Football League Hall-of-Famer Lawrence Taylor.
“When I tried the Lawrence Taylor case, because of the publicity of the case, I was able to speak with one juror at a time, “Aidala said. “The day that we’re picking the jury in the Weinstein case, he gets charged in Los Angeles with new crimes and it’s on the cover of every newspaper in the jury room before these jurors are walking in to claim that they’re going to be fair and impartial. Yet the judge gave us 15 minutes for 20 jurors. It just was not fair.”
The defense lawyers also explain why they filed a motion for a change of venue, asked Judge James Burke to recuse himself and declined to allow Weinstein to testify. Kamins notes that due to a ruling by the judge, Weinstein would have had to answer for 25 prior bad acts, which went beyond the crimes for which he was charged.
“If a person wants to tell their story on the stand but knows, in advance, they’ll be cross-examined about 25 prior bad acts you have to think twice about whether you want to get on the stand and Mr. Weinstein’s ultimate decision was to not testify,” Kamins said.
Miranda Warnings is hosted by NYSBA’s 118th President David Miranda. You can subscribe and listen to the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or on the NYSBA website.
Contact: Brendan Kennedy