NEW YORK — The verdict came in Tuesday from the court of public opinion on Harvey Weinstein — and it wasn’t good for the Oscar-winning producer.
More than one-third of the 120 potential jurors summoned to Manhattan Supreme Court quickly raised their hands when asked if they already believed that Weinstein, 67, was guilty of the sexual abuse charges that could land him in prison for life.
One after another, the would-be panelists declared they could not remain impartial in deciding the fate of Weinstein, the movie mogul turned #MeToo defendant after more than 90 women came forward with tales of his crass, creepy and allegedly criminal behavior.
“Without hearing any evidence, you would find the defendant guilty?” Judge James Burke asked one woman.
“Yes,” she responded, with 42 other would-be jurors offering similar responses to the same question. All of them were dismissed by Burke, and they exited the courtroom en masse.
The judge, in addressing the jury, also provided a short Hollywood A-list of potential witnesses or people whose names may arise at trial, including actresses Salma Hayek, Charlize Theron and Rosie Perez.
Potential jurors in the sexual abuse trial were earlier asked to answer five written questions about all the pretrial attention paid to the high-profile case as prosecutors and defense lawyers assembled to pick a panel in what is expected to be a six-week trial.
“Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Supreme Court,” said Burke as the jury candidates filed into his 15th-floor courtroom. “The name of the case which is about to be tried here is the people of the State of New York vs. Harvey Weinstein.”
Jurors, in a 16-page questionnaire, were asked if they had heard about Weinstein and his case “in newspapers, the internet, on television, on radio, or in a magazine.”
For those jurors answering yes —and it’s hard to imagine a New Yorker unfamiliar with the Weinstein allegations —a follow-up question asked if that would impact their ability to serve as a fair and impartial arbiter. Burke directly posed the same query in his first meeting with the potential jurors.
In question No. 57, potential panelists were asked if “a family member or a close friend ever been the victim of physical or sexual abuse, either as a child or adult.”
Other jury questions were more simple: Do you have any children or grandchildren? Are you currently employed? Any family members or close friends working in the entertainment industry?
Burke also rejected an appeal from defense attorneys to delay the start of the trial over new sexual assault charges brought Monday against Weinstein in Los Angeles County. The judge said the West Coast charges were “meaningless,” adding that Weinstein’s lawyers were still free to question the potential jurors about the California case.
“Stop trying to ring a bell that really has no resonance,” Burke told defense attorney Arthur Aidala.
Weinstein has insisted that his dozens of accusers are lying, and that any sexual contact was consensual. Weinstein, on trial for sexually assaulting two New York women, now also faces allegations of rape and sexual assault in California.
Actress Annabella Sciorra, who starred in “The Sopranos,” is expected to testify against Weinstein in the Manhattan prosecution. Weinstein, in a gray suit and tie, walked into court with the aid of a walker before the jury selection began.