Juror to Be Questioned as Ghislaine Maxwell Seeks New Trial
A federal judge on Thursday ordered a hearing into whether a juror who served in the Ghislaine Maxwell trial lied during the jury selection process, an issue that has clouded the jury’s guilty verdict and led Ms. Maxwell to seek a new trial.
The judge, Alison J. Nathan, said she would question the juror, who has been identified as Juror 50, under oath at the hearing on March 8.
Ms. Maxwell, 60, was convicted on Dec. 29 of sex trafficking and four other counts in Federal District Court in Manhattan. The jury heard three weeks of testimony that she had helped the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein entice, groom and sexually abuse teenage girls.
After the trial ended, Juror 50, a Manhattan man in his 30s, revealed in comments to the news media that during the jury’s deliberations, he told fellow jurors that he had been sexually abused as a child and did not tell anyone about that abuse for years.
But a copy of a confidential questionnaire that was administered to prospective jurors before the trial shows Juror 50 checked a box responding “no” when he was asked if he had ever been the victim of sexual harassment, sexual abuse or sexual assault. A copy of the questionnaire was unsealed on Thursday.
Although judges, in trying to assess the impact of disclosures in a jury room, are barred from asking jurors what happened during their deliberations, they may examine statements jurors made during the selection process.
Judge Nathan, said in a brief order on Thursday that after the trial, “Juror 50 made several direct, unambiguous statements to multiple media outlets about his own experience that do not pertain to jury deliberations and that cast doubt on the accuracy of his responses during jury selection.”
She said Juror 50’s statements were “clear, strong, substantial and incontrovertible evidence” that an “impropriety — namely, a false statement during jury selection — had occurred.”
Judge Nathan emphasized that the potential impropriety was not that someone with a history of sexual abuse might have served on the jury.
“Rather,” she wrote, “it is the potential failure to respond truthfully to questions during the jury selection process that asked for that material information so that any potential bias could be explored.”
The responses in the questionnaires were available to defense lawyers and prosecutors as they considered which jurors they wanted to exclude on grounds like bias.
Juror 50, in his interviews with news outlets, told Reuters that he “flew through” the jury questionnaire and he did not recall being asked about his personal experiences with sexual abuse. He said he would have answered such questions truthfully, Reuters reported.
In one of his interviews, with DailyMail.com, Juror 50 was quoted saying he had helped the other members of the jury understand things from a victim’s point of view.
Ms. Maxwell’s lawyers also argued that had Juror 50 “answered truthfully” during the jury selection process, “he would have been subject to a challenge for cause,” Judge Nathan wrote.
Judge Nathan also said she would make public a full opinion on the issue involving Juror 50, which had been temporarily filed under seal.
Todd A. Spodek, a lawyer for Juror 50, declined to comment on the judge’s order.