Harvey Weinstein’s New York Sex Crimes Conviction Is Overturned: Live Updates

The overturning of Harvey Weinstein’s sex crimes conviction in New York Thursday morning may seem like a shocking reversal, but the criminal case against him has been shaky since the day it was filed. Prosecutors moved the needle with risky, boundary-pushing gambles. New York’s top judges, many of them women, conducted series of painful debates over whether his conviction was justified.

“I’m not shocked,” Deborah Tuerkheimer, a former Manhattan prosecutor and now a law professor at Northwestern, said in an interview. Whether Mr. Weinstein’s trial was fair “is a very delicate question that could have gone either way.”

Outside of the justice system, the evidence of Mr. Weinstein’s sexual misconduct is overwhelming. After The New York Times revealed allegations of abuse by the producer in 2017, nearly 100 women came forward to report pressure and manipulation by Mr. Weinstein. Their stories sparked the global #MeToo reckoning.

But while Mr. Weinstein’s alleged victims could fill an entire courtroom, few of them could be at the center of a New York criminal trial. Many of the horror stories involved sexual harassment, which is a civil offense, not a criminal one. Many came from out of state, including California. Others have passed the statute of limitations. One of the original accusers was excluded from the trial due to allegations of police misconduct.

Manhattan prosecutors, under pressure for not filing charges sooner, took a series of gambles.

First, they conducted a trial based on just two victims, who accused him of sexually assaulting them but also admitted to having consensual sex with him at other times — a combination that many experts say , is too complicated to obtain convictions. To prove their case against Mr. Weinstein, who denies all allegations of nonconsensual sex, prosecutors had little concrete evidence.

So, to convince the jury, the lawyers resorted to a controversial strategy that would eventually lead to the conviction being overturned. They put on the stand other women with accounts of abuse by Mr Weinstein – the so-called Molineux witnesses – to establish a pattern of predation. The decision seemed appropriate for the moment: In a legal echo of the #MeToo movement, Mr. Weinstein was forced to face a chorus of testimony from several women.

The women’s testimony was gripping, and when Mr. Weinstein was convicted in 2020 and subsequently sentenced to 23 years in prison, it appeared that prosecutors had expanded the avenues to hold sex offenders accountable.

“I did it for all of us,” Dawn Dunning, who served as a prosecution witness at trial, said in an interview that followed. “I did it for women who couldn’t testify. I couldn’t not do it.

But the decision also risked violating a cardinal rule of criminal trials: defendants must be judged solely on the acts with which they are accused.

This became the main reason for Mr. Weinstein’s repeated appeals against his conviction. For years, his lawyers argued that his trial was fundamentally unfair because it included witnesses who fell outside the scope of the charges. In addition to the alleged sexual assault victims, prosecutors called character witnesses who described Mr. Weinstein as a temperamental and cruel character.

In 2022, a New York appeals court rejected these concerns and upheld his conviction, after vigorous debate by the justices. They wrote that the additional witnesses’ testimony helped show that the producer did not view his victims as “romantic partners or friends” but that “his goal at all times was to position the women in such a way that he could have sex with them, and whether the women consented or not was of no importance to him.

Last February, when New York’s highest court heard the producer’s final and final appeal, the proceedings did not attract much attention. But they seemed downright dramatic: Seven of the state’s top judges, including four women, questioned whether the man whose alleged offenses were a cornerstone of the #MeToo movement had been treated fairly in court.

Today, the court decided, by a majority including three female judges, to overturn the conviction and order a new trial. Mr. Weinstein remains convicted in California and will be transferred to prison there.

“We conclude that the trial court erroneously admitted testimony about alleged, uncharged, prior sexual acts against persons other than the complainants of the underlying crimes,” the justices wrote in their Thursday ruling.

“No person charged with illegality may be tried on the basis of evidence of uncharged crimes that serves solely to establish the defendant’s propensity for criminal behavior,” the opinion continues.

But the decision was adopted by the narrowest of majorities: 4 votes to 3, with sharp dissent from the justices who said they feared the implications of the court’s decision. .. “The majority’s determination perpetuates outdated notions of sexual violence and allows predators to escape accountability,” Justice Madeline Singas wrote, adding that the rules regarding witnesses had evolved to be more flexible. “By ignoring the legal and practical realities related to proving lack of consent, the majority have constructed a naive narrative. »

Reached by telephone minutes after the court shared its decision, Ashley Judd, the first actress to make allegations against Mr. Weinstein, was unwavering in her own judgment. “It’s unfair to survivors,” she said of the decision.

“We always live in our truth,” she said. “And we know what happened.”

The New York judges’ heated exchanges and early reaction to the ruling have launched a new debate over the ground rules for criminal sentencing in sexual misconduct cases.

“The #MeToo movement has shown how important it is to have testimony from multiple accusers,” Ms. Turkeheimer said. But witness rules — which are strict for good reason — can leave courtrooms in an “alternate universe in which evidence relevant to sex crimes is often hidden from the jury.”

“There is a tension at the heart of all this,” she said, “and lawsuits in the #MeToo era will continue to face that dilemma.”

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News Source : www.nytimes.com


With a penchant for words, Eleon Smith began writing at an early age. As editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper, he honed his skills telling impactful stories. Smith went on to study journalism at Columbia University, where he graduated top of his class. After interning at the New York Times, Smith landed a role as a news writer. Over the past decade, he has covered major events like presidential elections and natural disasters. His ability to craft compelling narratives that capture the human experience has earned him acclaim. Though writing is his passion, Eleon also enjoys hiking, cooking and reading historical fiction in his free time. With an eye for detail and knack for storytelling, he continues making his mark at the forefront of journalism.
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