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Harvey Weinstein's Fate Is In The Hands Of A Manhattan Jury


Just a warning here - this next story deals with sexual violence. Beginning today, Harvey Weinstein's fate will be in the hands of a Manhattan jury. Deliberations are set to begin in the sex crimes trial of the former Hollywood movie mogul. The prosecution made its closing arguments last Friday, making its case that Weinstein is guilty of five counts of rape and assault. NPR's Rose Friedman has been in the courthouse in New York City reporting on the story and joins me now. Hi, Rose.


GREENE: So listeners should just know that we're going to be describing allegations of sexual assault here. So with that said, just, you know, tell me about the prosecution's case.

FRIEDMAN: Well, the prosecution's case is that Weinstein raped one woman, Jessica Mann, in a DoubleTree Hotel in New York in 2013 and then, forced oral sex on another woman, Miriam Haleyi, in his own apartment in 2006. They're also using a rape allegation from the winter of 1993 and '94 by actress, Anabella Sciorra, to bolster the most serious charges. And then, they had three other women testify that Weinstein raped or assaulted them, which was in order to show the jury a pattern of behavior.

So the jury heard from six women. There were these really harrowing, detailed stories. Prosecutors are definitely hoping that hearing from so many witnesses will make it hard for the jury to decide these things didn't happen.

Joan Illuzzi, who's the assistant district attorney in the case, used her closing statement on Friday to frame the case as really being about power. So she described especially the two women in the charges as having very little family support, not very much money. She called Weinstein a predator who thought he could get away with his alleged crimes, because he saw his victims - and I'm quoting her here - "as ants he could step on with no consequence."

GREENE: Oh, wow. OK. Well, in the face of that, what has Weinstein's defense team argued?

FRIEDMAN: Weinstein's defense is that these women are lying. His team says that all of these encounters were consensual at the time and that the women are only later reframing them as forced or unwanted. So they've tried to poke holes in the prosecution's case. They've pointed out inconsistencies in each woman's story, timelines or details that changed over the course of the investigation. They've also used emails and other communication between Weinstein and these women to show that the relationships were friendly and, in their words, even loving both before and after the alleged assaults took place.

So, you know, the other thing is the defense knows that this is playing out in public, especially over the last two years. So Weinstein's lawyer, Donna Rotunno, told the jury in her closing argument that she said, it's the unpopular people that need juries the most. She said, you don't have to like Mr. Weinstein. This is not a popularity contest.

GREENE: Well, so when the jury begins deliberating, what exactly are they weighing here?

FRIEDMAN: Yeah. So there are five charges in this case. The most serious could carry up to a life sentence in prison. It's a case with very little physical evidence since most of the allegations are about things that happened, you know, years ago in a room between two people. It's also kind of an unusual case in that prosecutors don't often bring charges in a situation where assaults allegedly happened in relationships that then continued afterwards. So, you know, the jury has heard from some friends of the witnesses, some who backed up the stories, others who discounted them. But it's really going to come down to whether the jurors believe these women who say the encounters were not consensual.

GREENE: And so what do we know about the jury here?

FRIEDMAN: The jury is seven men and five women who've been sitting and listening to this case for three weeks. It was sometimes hard to sit through. There were some really painful stories, along with some funny moments and some boring moments. And they haven't been allowed to talk about it, even with one another. So that changes today. Judge James Burke will give them instructions, and then they'll go deliberate.

GREENE: NPR's Rose Friedman in New York. Thanks, Rose.

FRIEDMAN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rose Friedman is an Associate Editor for NPR's Arts, Books & Culture desk. She edits radio pieces on a range of subjects, including books, pop culture, fine arts, theater, obituaries and the occasional Harry Potter-check-in. She is also co-creator of NPR's annual Book Concierge and the podcast recommendation site Earbud.fm. In addition, Rose has edited commentaries for the network, as well as regular features like This Week's Must Read on All Things Considered.
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